But candidates Tom Knox and Michael Nutter want anonymous "311" tip lines to divert non-emergency calls from 911, and Nutter wants tax relief for businesses that hire ex-offenders in an effort to stem the poverty that contributes to recidivism.
Dwight Evans wants Philadelphia's building trades to provide more jobs for people of color, creating more pathways to legitimate self-sufficiency and away from crime.
Chaka Fattah wants surveillance footage from private businesses made routinely available to police, too, and a celebrity-studded antiviolence campaign, starring the likes of Donovan McNabb.
Bob Brady, like Knox, wants a mayoral cabinet-level post to coordinate antiviolence efforts across city departments.
Industrious? You bet.
But what impact can a mayor have? Do the plans of these wannabes make sense to criminologists?
"Everybody now agrees that law enforcement cannot arrest its way out of this problem. . . . There needs to be a role for the social services . . . faith-based groups . . . other elements of the criminal justice system," including prosecutors, judges, probation and parole officers, said David Kennedy, director of John Jay College's Center on Crime Prevention and Control.
"Successful cities that have made inroads against violent crime have put together strategic partnerships. A mayor doesn't have direct authority over all of these elements but a mayor is in a position to galvanize and organize. The bully pulpit is part of it," Kennedy said.
As for the nuts and bolts, criminologist Sam Walker, author of Sense and Nonsense About Crime, said some of the thinking is sound, some is unproven.
"Hiring more officers, by itself, will accomplish nothing," Walker said. The important decision is how they are assigned.
"There is no persuasive research that restrictive gun laws actually reduce crime. I say this despite the fact that I loathe guns and the whole gun culture in this country.
"Random stop-and-frisk programs are not effective and only aggravate community-police relations," he said, despite evidence to the contrary pioneered by local criminologist Lawrence Sherman.
"The jury is still out on the impact of video-surveillance technology on violent crime," Walker said.
"More cops is great, you can patrol more streets, clear more corners. But it's like putting a topical treatment on a rash while not dealing with the underlying systemic disease," said Maria Kefalas, St. Joseph's University assistant professor of sociology and director of the university's Institute for Violence Research and Prevention.
"There are thousands of people in Philadelphia who want to take back the neighborhoods, who want to be protected if they come forward as witnesses. A mayor can energize and tap into this community. . . . This is a fixable problem. You just have to have the political will."
University of Pennsylvania sociologist Elijah Anderson, author of Code of the Street, has lectured widely on the dynamics of impoverished inner cities.
"The problems that we have with respect to violence in this city are really associated with economic and social distress" and the toll, primarily on minorities, of the decades-old shift from a manufacturing to a service economy, he said.
"There are three sources of income for this population: low-wage jobs, welfare payments (or what is left of them), and the idiosyncratic underground economy of hustling, barter, street crime, what have you.
"What a mayor can do is to somehow encourage economic development. He's got to have economic connections with these corporations, with the major universities. He's got to do a full-court press to enhance the economic development of the city.
"If we had that," said Anderson, "I think you'd find the problems of violence and crime would be reduced. Not overnight. But in the long term, because you've got more people doing OK or well and this has implications for violence reduction."
Kennedy, the John Jay professor, said Thomas Menino, Boston's longtime mayor, is a good role model.
Throughout the 1990s, Menino presided over what came to be known as the "Boston Miracle," an antigun, antigang initiative led by a special unit of the Boston Police Department that dramatically reduced city homicides - from 152 in 1990 to 34 in 1998.
But last year, the Boston murder tally was up again, to 41 in the first six months alone, and observers said the partnership that made the Miracle possible - social workers, law enforcement agencies, gang outreach workers, black church leaders - had frayed.
"Now Mayor Menino is playing a very prominent role in saying we need to get back to work. Both in particular programs and in bringing in an activist new police commissioner and the steady refrain to all of these partners that it is time to join together again," Kennedy said.
"We expect the garbage to be picked up and if it isn't we know that someone is not doing his job. We should expect for violent crime to be reduced to manageable levels. Since we know that can be done, we ought to expect it."
Contact staff writer Michael Matza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-854-2541.
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