So Far, Philly Murder Rate Down in 2016

The combined January-February number was the second lowest of the last 10 years.

Beyond My Ken | Wikimedia Commons

Beyond My Ken | Wikimedia Commons

So far in 2016, Philadelphia’s murder rate is at its second-lowest number in the last 10 years.

Even with two more homicides — including the death of a South Philly restaurant worker — added by end of day Thursday, the city has still recorded 39 homicides for the year. Only in one other year over the last decade — 2013, when murders plummeted — had the city arrived at the end of March 3 with fewer than 41 deaths.

Still, it’s far too early to declare a lasting trend. Consider the fact that earlier in the week, the murder rate was about 10 percent off last year’s pace. The two additional deaths on Thursday closed the gap to 5 percent.

“Certainly, our men and women are working their butts off every day … but it’s way too early for us to be talking,” said Lt. John Stanford, a spokesman for the police department. “We still have a problem with crime in the city.”

The city’s weekly crime statistics report also shows that, through Feb. 21, the number of gun assaults was actually up 5 percent over last year’s pace.

But there are constant efforts to keep gun injuries from becoming gun deaths. Police in recent years have picked up gun victims and taken them to hospitals rather than wait for ambulances; Temple University Hospital, too, has recently received national attention for its “Fighting Chance” program that gives classes on how to help a gunshot victim survive — at churches, grade schools, halfway houses and recreation centers.

“You have the combination of police, paramedics and hospitals in this city that’s kept quite a few people alive in this city,” Stanford said.

After the murder rate of some (but certainly not all) big cities increased in 2015, some argued that there was a “Ferguson effect” — an increase in lawlessness due to an increased criticism of police. But so far in 2016, Philadelphia has been joined by some of those same cities — St. Louis and New York — in appearing to turn to the lower rates of recent years.  (One exception? Chicago, which has seen a spike in its violence.)

Stanford said even a reduced number of homicides is still too many. “That’s the reality of it,” he said. “We’ll keep pushing and keep driving.”

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