With Philadelphia’s homicide rate on a record-breaking pace, former Governor Ed Rendell suggested rehiring retired police officers to help quell the violence.
Popular Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr mentioned Rendell while criticizing Mayor Jim Kenney after a man was shot and killed in front of Starr’s posh Old City restaurant, Buddakan. Starr addressed what he felt was a lack of support for Center City businesses.
"It feels that the government is leaving the economic epicenter of Center City to fend for itself. I have never seen it this way," Starr said in an email to NBC10 on Tuesday. "The proud entrepreneurs are valiantly trying but we need basic support and protection from our Mayor and police force. (Former Mayor) Ed Rendell rallied us all and reminded us how great this city could be. We need that optimism and leadership right now."
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As of Tuesday night, there have been 129 homicides in the city so far this year, up 33 percent from the same time last year which saw a total of 499 murders -- the most since 1990 and the second most since record-keeping began in the early 1960s.
Mayor Jim Kenney said he was tormented daily by the violence in the same way Starr now feels.
"Violence or homicide in any part of the city is as important as in any other part of the city. The fact that someone tragically died at Third and Chestnut is no more important than someone being killed in North Philadelphia or West Philadelphia," Kenney said. "Ed Rendell was a great mayor, was a great governor, a great person. Ed Rendell was not dealing with a pandemic and the proliferation of gun violence that we've never seen before, as we've seen in every other city in the country."
Rendell responded to Starr and Kenney’s comments during an interview with NBC10 on Wednesday.
“I had some tough problems to deal with but no mayor in my lifetime has had the same set of problems at the same time as what Mayor Kenney is wrestling with,” Rendell said. “Stephen's right too. Center City produces almost half of the total jobs Philadelphia has.”
While Rendell acknowledged the important role Center City plays in Philadelphia’s economy, he also noted that every neighborhood and citizen deserved equal attention.
“Whether it's someone who's a homeless person living in North Philadelphia or whether it's the richest resident we have living in Rittenhouse Square,” Rendell said. “Everyone's life is worth the same."
While Rendell believes more police officers are needed to help quell the violence, he also noted how difficult it is to achieve that due to the city’s budget deficit.
“Now maybe this money coming from the COVID 19 bill would allow us to hire more police,” he said. “But if you hire more police, it takes six months for them to get through the Academy.”
Rendell then suggested rehiring retired police officers in order to add more law enforcement while saving money.
“Keep their pensions and make additional money on top of it,” Rendell said. “It's still cheaper because you wouldn't have to be paying them healthcare because they already have healthcare. It would be cheaper than getting new police and a retired policeman in two weeks would be ready to hit the streets.”
Along with his suggestion, Rendell also stressed the need for unity among Philadelphia’s leaders and citizens amid the violence.
“I love Stephen Starr,” Rendell said. “He's done more for Philadelphia than almost anybody. But it's really important that we don't criticize each other. We're faced with a real crisis. We've got to all pull together on the same war.”
There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.