Under a cloud of violent crimes and a spike in murders, on Thursday, Mayor Michael Nutter laid out his nine-point plan to combat crime in the city.
Philadelphia officials frustrated by a spike in murders so far this year are offering rewards of up to $20,000 for information that leads to a conviction in a homicide.
The city also plans to offer a reward of $500 for information leading to the recovery of an illegal weapon. And District Attorney Seth Williams says he will work with the courts to prosecute anyone with an illegal firearm to the full extent of the law -- up to seven years in prison.
“I’ve got a message to every punk, every criminal, every person carrying an illegal weapon in the city of Philadelphia – got a gun, go to jail,” said Nutter.
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Mayor Nutter was surrounded by fellow city leaders including police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, City Council President Darrell Clarke, Williams and others as he announced the reward programs as part of a new crime-fighting plan aimed at stemming the uptick in homicides.
The city has had 31 murders so far this year as it's faced a spate of gun violence. That compares to 25 killings at this point in 2011, an increase of nearly 25 percent.
The measure to target illegal firearms was praised by anti-gun violence group CeaseFirePA Board President Dan Muroff:
"...The proposals laid out today are a significant step in the right direction -- and another example of cities desperately trying to take measures to stem the scourge of gun violence terrorizing Pennsylvania.
"Unfortunately, our state government has refused to give cities like Philadelphia the tools law enforcement needs to take effective action against the illegal guns used by people responsible for the violence -- including mandatory lost or stolen handgun reporting, an effective background check system, and an enforceable concealed firearm permit policy.
"Lacking action from the state, Philadelphia is fortunate to have a city government taking proactive steps to address the problem. Communities need to stand up for themselves, and that wouldn’t be possible without strong leadership from the Mayor."
Nutter says he is also authorizing Commissioner Ramsey to put more officers in crime hot spots, among other efforts.
"The City is taking very important steps today to bring the Philadelphia Police Department closer to the community," said Ramsey. "We cannot do it alone, however. If we want to interrupt the cycle of violence that is plaguing some of our communities, then we must all play a part in helping to prevent and solve crime."
There were also calls for anti-violence initiatives within communities, new video surveillance systems in public spaces and an increase to funding for the witness protection/assistance program.