Street is not alone. Politicians, clergy, and celebrities such as the normally sensible Will Smith have led countless marches asking killers to stop. For all the references to antiviolence marches in The Inquirer in the last year, I can't find any evidence that marching stops killing. Marchers increase their self-righteousness and burn off extra calories, but to my knowledge no one has decided not to kill someone because antiviolence marchers said so.
Second, The Inquirer and politicians campaign for gun control.
Hardly a day goes by without an article or editorial on the subject: Gun control popped up in almost 100 Inquirer pieces in the last year alone in the Newsbank search engine. But would it work? Scholars debate whether gun control cuts crime by disarming criminals, or increases some crimes (such as burglaries) by disarming the law-abiding. One thing is clear: Statistically it just doesn't matter.
As Freakonomics author Steven Levitt reports in his 2004 Journal of Economic Perspectives article, "Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s," data show that more cops and longer sentences cut crime, but that gun control has no measurable impact, in part because few criminals get guns through legal dealers. (Levitt is hardly a tool of the National Rifle Association: He also disproves scholarship claiming that more guns bring less crime.)
Even though gun control doesn't work, Philadelphians love to hate guns because griping about state laws and out-of-town gun dealers lets us off the hook: We blame Harrisburg for our mess. It's also a way to separate us sophisticated city folks from those gun-toting, Bush-voting rubes out in the boondocks: They love guns, so we have to hate them to show our superiority.
The political approaches to cutting crime - asking criminals to stop, and gun control - have failed. What if we took a business approach?
Businesses succeed by copying more successful businesses. So if we want to cut crime, why not copy someplace that already has?
As it happens, such a city exists. It's not a police state, nor a homogeneous suburb full of two-parent families. It has not figured out a way to end poverty, racism, drug use or even guns. It's no more civil than Philadelphia, and it's not on the other side of the world. In fact, it's only 90 minutes up I-95.
Not so long ago, New York was Crimetown USA. Then Mayor David Dinkins hired more cops, and crime started edging down as more perpetrators landed behind bars. But the best was yet to come. After Rudy Giuliani defeated Dinkins, he appointed William Bratton commissioner of the New York Police Department and empowered him to do the job.
Bratton used block-level crime statistics to target hot spots and terminate ineffective precinct commanders. As Heritage Foundation analyst Bob Moffit, who comes from a family of Philadelphia police officers, said in an interview last week: "Bratton replaced roughly 50 percent of police precinct commanders in two years, so if you would not or could not get with the program of cracking down on neighborhood crime, you were gone. In New York you had serious management control of personnel, the kind of control that is lacking in Philadelphia."
Bratton also pioneered "broken windows" policing, which targeted minor crimes to send the message that the NYPD was in charge. It worked. From 1994 to 1998, New York's homicides fell 62 percent, with further declines since then under Bratton's successors.
Learning from New York, Mayor Ed Rendell chose Bratton aide John Timoney as Philadelphia police chief. In Timoney's first two years, homicides dropped by a quarter, but civil-service rules and local traditions kept him from running the department with a free hand, and he left town.
So how many references in the last year has The Inquirer made to Bratton or broken-windows policing? Exactly three.
Clearly, for our local media and politicians, nothing fails like success.
Robert Maranto (email@example.com) teaches political science at Villanova University, and recently published "A Guide to Charter Schools: Research and Practical Advice for Educators."