Despite violent weekend, Philly homicides and shootings decline

Posted: October 09, 2013

YOU MIGHT NOT know it by this past weekend - which saw more than 20 people in Philadelphia wounded by gunfire, including two fatalities - but the city's homicide tally is still on track to be the lowest it has been in decades.

The city's year-to-date homicide count of 195 is 27 percent lower than it was at this time last year, when the tally had already reached 267, and it's 37 percent lower than in 2007, which ended just shy of 400.

At the current rate, the city may finish the year with fewer than 300 murders for the first time since 2002, according to police statistics. As of the end of June, the city was on track to have the lowest homicide total since 1968.

The number of shooting victims has dropped as well this year, with 889 reported as of yesterday, according to police, compared with 1,029 as of the same date last year - a 14 percent decrease.

But police say they're hesitant to declare the year a success.

"There's still a long way to go. . . . We had 23 shooting [victims] over the weekend," said Lt. John Stanford, a police spokesman. "Historically, these last few months of the year are the months in which we really have to hold it down and make sure we finish the year strong. At any point in time, it can change."

Stanford attributed the decrease to strategies implemented by commanders and carried out by patrol officers in some of the city's most violent neighborhoods, along with partnerships among the police department, probation and parole, the District Attorney's Office and federal authorities.

He said officers' work on the street has the most impact.

"The true test of it is the players that are on the field, the officers out there each and every day, and how they've implemented the strategies," he said.

The decline in violence citywide has been most palpable in neighborhoods that have seen the highest numbers of shootings and homicides in past years. In the 35th Police District, which covers Olney, Logan, Fern Rock, Ogontz, East Germantown and Oak Lane, homicides have decreased 54 percent since last year, while shootings have dropped 24 percent, according to Inspector James Kelly, the Northwest Police Division commander.

Kelly and 35th District Capt. Joe Fredericksdorf attributed the steep declines to targeted policing - identifying the most violent offenders and areas and deploying officers accordingly.

"It's really the effort of the cops and using the crime stats the right way to put our resources in the right places at the right time," Fredericksdorf said, adding that building a rapport with community members has been pivotal.

Both he and Kelly stressed the importance of keeping the pressure on and continuing to improve upon their tactics.

"We've just got to keep on it," Kelly said. "That's where the challenge comes. We're not just looking to have one good year. We're looking to build on this."

On Twitter: @morganzalot


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