Homicides in the City of Brotherly Love are up 20 percent after dipping slightly the last two years.
Currently there are 85 murder victims compared to 71 homicides this time last year, according to the Philadelphia Police Department. This follows a four-year trend in rising murder rates after the city experienced a significant decrease in 2013.
“The highest motive we’re seeing is arguments between people … which can be difficult to anticipate,” said Philadelphia police spokesman Capt. Sekou Kinebrew.
He added that these arguments are not necessarily between friends, relatives or even people who know each other. They are “disputes that turn violent,” he said.
Despite the uptick, shootings are down 5 percent overall. The paradox is difficult to explain, but Kinebrew credits police with maintaining a strong presence on the streets and forging lasting relationships with the communities they patrol.
“Philadelphia is unique as a city of neighborhoods,” he said. “We have police who grew up in these areas and know the residents. Their kids are our kids.”
These relationships are strengthened by regular townhalls, community programs and social engagement between law enforcement and citizens, Kinebrew added. It’s a calculated, holistic approach that is not necessarily singular to Philadelphia but has proven successful in a city whose demographics change seemingly block by block.
For example, in the 14th District where Kinebrew once patrolled, enforcement officers hand out free water ice to children and their parents on the last day of school. He called it a “bit of a trick” to educate residents on the changing curfews police enforce during summer nights.
“We hope these tactics pay out as time unfolds,” he said, adding that the homicide division is hiring more officers and detectives in an effort to curb murder rates.
“We can’t just police our way out of it.”
During the presidential campaign season, President Donald Trump accused Philadelphia of skyrocketing crime rates. Mayor Jim Kenney bristled, calling Trump a purveyor of fake facts.
“The men and women of the Philadelphia Police Department … dedicate themselves every day to driving down our crime rate, laying their lives on the line,” Kenney said at the time.
Indeed, Philadelphia’s overall murder rate has steadily dropped over the last decade. In 2007, 391 people were killed compared to 278 in 2016. Last year's numbers also appreared to be on the rise by mid-year but leveled out by December, Kinebrew said.