Philadelphia homicide rate highest in nation

While the Penn patrol zone reported no homicides in 2011, there were several handgun robberies just off campus at the end of the year

· January 11, 2012, 9:02 pm   ·  Updated January 13, 2012, 12:59 am

The City of Brotherly Love may not be so friendly after all.

Philadelphia had the highest homicide rate out of the nation’s 10 most populous cities, according to statistics provided by each city’s police department.

The city saw 20.7 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2011, with Chicago following closely with 15.7. There were 324 homicides in Philadelphia this past year, 306 in 2010 and 302 in 2009. However, 2007 saw a five-year high of 392.

There were no homicides in the Penn Patrol Zone in 2011, according to Vice President of Public Safety Maureen Rush.

Rush said the majority of the 324 homicide cases “were not about innocent bystanders walking down the street.”

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The end of 2011 — between Thanksgiving weekend and Dec. 3 — saw several handgun robberies in the vicinity just off campus.

Four handgun robberies occurred between Spruce and Walnut Streets and 44th and 45th streets, according to the 27th Ward Committeeman Brian Villa. The 27th Ward encompasses Penn’s campus in addition to land further south.

Recently, there has been a large number of gunpoint robberies between 44th to 48th streets, and north to south from Osage to Chester Avenue, Villa added.

Most of these incidents have been occurring between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m., but a few have started as early as 5 p.m.

Philadelphia Police are working to decrease the number of incidents. “You definitely don’t want that name, but we’re going to deal with it,” Philadelphia Police spokesperson Lieutenant Ray Evers said. “It’s the nature of the beast, and we have to deal with the amount of manpower we have.”

Despite the gloomy statistics from the past year, Evers warns against drawing conclusions from solely observing year-to-year rates.

“It’s hard to pick up trends from year to year. It takes several years because some police issues take more than a calendar 12 months in terms of making a larger impact.”

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“I don’t think the recent upturn in homicides is significant,” History professor Eric Schneider said. “The larger issue is that Philadelphia has not seen a very significant decline in murders the way NYC, Chicago and Los Angeles have.”

“Every city’s different,” Evers said. “In New York, they have 40,000 cops and are economically different than Philadelphia.”

Cities with high homicide rates are correlated with “high poverty rates, high levels of racial segregation and the presence of the underground economy,” Schneider said.

“This point in time compared to the previous year has been a more difficult economic situation, and that may be an adequate explanation for recent crimes,” Villa said.

In addition, Villa said the steady increase in crime in this area can be partially attributed to its geographical situation.

“This area has a hill on the northeast part so it’s harder to see what’s going on in the area if you’re on the fringes,” he said.

On 48th Street between Osage and Baltimore, there is less traffic and is “more isolated compared to nearby areas,” Villa said.

“And because some of these streets aren’t on major roads — Baltimore for example — it appears to have escape routes.”

“It’s a tough place to defend,” Villa added.

Mark Christman, community manager of the University City District, assured neighborhood leaders through an email on Jan. 10 that “the Philadelphia Police Department, UCD ambassadors and the public safety departments of our institutional partners have focused intensively on this area, and continue to deploy additional resources in an attempt to combat these problems.”

“Philadelphia Police have absolutely examined every way they can to counteract this problem, but there are a lot of factors in this violent epidemic,” Rush said.

DPS is working with Penn’s criminology departments in addition to Drexel University’s Division of Public Safety to keep “our patrol zone as safe as possible,” Rush said.

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