Four of the main motives for murder in Philadelphia declined last year when compared to five years ago — those being arguments, domestic violence, highway robberies and retaliation — according to a new report by Pew Charitable Trusts.
One glaring exception: Drug-related killings. Those jumped from 18 percent of all Philadelphia homicides in 2012 to 32 percent in 2016, Pew found.
"Drugs appeared to be driving the murder rate over that period, with police statistics showing that the percentages for other top causes declined during that time," the analysis said.
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And the pace so far this year would mean another increase from the 89 slayings over drugs last year.
The finding comes at a time in the city's recent history when yearly homicide totals have stayed well below 300. (The current total of 227 homicides for 2017 through Sept. 27 is 8 percent above last year's pace.)
The decade's annual totals continue a downward trend started in the second half of last decade when annual homicide totals were in the low 300s. Those years came on the heels of some of the city's deadliest following the turn of the century.
The police department told Pew in a statement that police did not see a correlation between drug-related slayings and the increase in fatal overdoses during the ongoing opioid epidemic.
"The Philadelphia Police Department said it was too soon to know whether the data from the past few years represent a trend—and did not speculate on what may be driving the increases," according to the analysis.