Nutter Resists Calls to Reduce Enforcement of Low-Level Crimes

Mayor on CNN: "That's insane. People want safe neighborhoods."

Last week we told you about the 36,000 black men “missing” in Philadelphia, gone from the city either because they’re in prison or dead at a young age. Some experts believe overincarceration is a problem, but Mayor Michael Nutter isn’t buying it.

On CNN’s State of the Union with Michael Smerconish on Sunday, Nutter rejected the idea he should reduce enforcement of low-level crimes in order to reduce high levels of incarceration:

SMERCONISH: Mayor Nutter, much of the conversation this week has been about the so-called 1.5 million missing African-American men, the fact that one of every six are missing because of either premature death or incarceration.

I’m wondering if, practically speaking, you are prepared to go in your case to Commissioner Ramsey — you have got one of the best police chiefs, I think, in the nation — and ask him not to enforce the low-level crime, so as to reduce the prison population? Or do you feel that in the neighborhoods, people would then see a spike in crime?

NUTTER: Well, citizens, black, white, Latino, Asian, anyone else, people want safe neighborhoods.

And as much as we focus obviously on violent crime in Philadelphia — and we have certainly seen a reduction, 37 percent reduction of homicide over the last seven years, a 17 percent drop in violent crime — people are not willing to put up with any level of crime.

And so we did decriminalize, not legalize, but decriminalize small…

SMERCONISH: Marijuana.

NUTTER: Possessions of small amounts of marijuana. But if you break in somebody’s car, I am not going to say to the

citizens, well, that’s not a violent crime, so we are not going to try to do anything about it. I mean, that’s insane. People want safe neighborhoods. The issue is, again, going back to what my colleague Mayor Bell and the congressman said, how do we get jobs on the table? How do we get employment on the table? How do we invest in communities with economic development?

And whether it’s in Baltimore or Philly or Birmingham or the like, that’s really what will lift everyone up. And the congressman lays out the case. I mean, the president has faced such fierce opposition from people in the majority in the House and the Senate, the Republican Party, to virtually anything that he is trying to do.

And so it’s not about making the false choice between enforcing the law on violent crime vs. nonviolent crime. People want to be safe. They don’t want people taking their stuff. What needs to happen is investments in education, employment and training programs.

And, again, I’m going to come back to, we are here at the beginning of May. Kids will be out of school soon all across America, and we need to stay focused on the issue of summer jobs and skills- building for these young people.

Nutter also pitched more jobs and more job training as the answer to unrest and riots such as what took place last week in Baltimore.