Mayor Michael Nutter is ready to change the city’s nickname of “Killadelphia.”
Nutter, a 1979 Wharton graduate, initiated a bounty for criminals that provides $20,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of homicide perpetrators and $500 for the arrest and conviction of anyone carrying an illegal weapon.
At Strawberry Mansion High School on Jan. 26, he also presented a new array of crime reduction measures for the city alongside District Attorney Seth Williams and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey.
These measures include use of incentives to increase arrests and convictions, new technology for reporting crime, new video surveillance programs, increased funding for the Victim/Witness Assistance Program as well as an increased police presence involving 100 new cadet police officers.
However, some express doubt in the effectiveness of these new initiatives.
Daniel Rubin, Urban Studies professor and columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, does not agree with Nutter’s tactical approach.
The $20,000 incentive for witnesses to come forward to convict criminals does not seem practical to Rubin.
“People are scared of getting killed for participating in a police investigation. Are they going to risk that for $20,000 dollars?”
He added that the funding for the new initiative will probably not last.
The horrific events of violence that are occurring in Philadelphia reflect an ever growing problem involving both economic and social issues, Rubin said.
“It’s not just murder that’s making the city seem scary.” He added that particularly in times of economic crises, people look for scapegoats. “Everybody is suffering,” he said.
Socially, a lack of consideration for others has developed in the city. Rubin reflects on the “huge disconnect” that occurs between strangers, allowing criminals to “objectify” those they don’t know.
Despite the flaws he sees in Nutter’s proposal, Rubin understands the mayor’s current predicament. “The mayor has a serious problem on his hands” he said. “He’s throwing everything he’s got at it and he needs to. He needs to not stop calling out people for this behavior.”
Rubin said the new initiatives are something he hasn’t seen from Nutter in the past, adding that the apparent “exasperation” Nutter feels is well founded.
“I’m sure what he’s doing is better than what I could come up with,” Rubin added.
Urban Studies professor Eric Schneider is equally apprehensive about the effectiveness of these new tactics. Schneider’s concern is towards the “horrendous recent history of witness intimidation” that Philadelphia has experienced.
He said the $20,000 bounty might not necessarily work because individuals still need to testify, an evident fear for most witnesses. Though the bounty might lead someone to take a chance and come forward, Schneider said the policy is probably “more for show.”
Schneider pointed out the shootings that occur in Philadelphia are a part of an “underground economy,” where no legal recourse, mediation or intervention can occur. The individuals who take part in these shootings aren’t going to appear in court or call the police but rather “retaliate directly.” This in itself “sets off a self-perpetuating cycle,” Schneider said.
In reference to the new group of police officers, Schneider understands that the more police there are, the less likely a shooting will occur around them. However, “police can’t be everywhere,” he said.
Schneider does believe the new technological innovations will be effective in crime reduction. Cameras in addition to convenient ways to report crime through text and email will definitely help in decreasing violence, he said.
However, there is a deeper issue at hand. “These issues of violence are deeply rooted in neighborhood inequalities…. Until you start addressing that issue, the other stuff that you can do will be temporary and of limited significance,” he said.
The short-term solutions the mayor is trying to introduce, though, are “absolutely necessary in a time of crises,” he said. However, he considers the homicide problem an “endemic” one, meaning that it remains a constant problem. These problems can’t be dealt with by just Philadelphians or one person.
Urban Studies professor Eugenie Birch, meanwhile, wholly supports Nutter’s efforts. “We have to be supportive of this and other kinds of measures,” she said.
Birch insisted that just because the program is introduced, changes won’t just occur overnight. “This is a long-term issue.”
For Birch, both crime and education are pieces of the puzzle. She believes that Nutter is taking a multi-faceted approach because he has consulted sustainability and criminology experts. “I trust that he will be monitoring, adjusting and amending the policy,” she said.
“He is a very brave man,” she added. She remains faithful that change will occur, if only little by little. “It’ll be slow, but neighborhood by neighborhood he’ll take back the city,” she said.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.