Monday, November 19, 2007

Philly Dangerous, Not as Bad as Detroit or Camden (WHEW) reports today that a private firm has analyzed FBI crime statistics for US cities and that Philadelphia came in as the 21st most dangerous city in the US.  Camden was the 5th.  Detroit, the most miserable place I have ever visited, was the worst.  Shockingly, instead of acknowledging that there is a crime problem in her fair city, the Detroit Police Chief, complained that the report is only available for purchase. 

Ella Bully-Cummings, Detroit's top cop apparently thought that was more egregious than the fact that Detroit had as many violent crimes as did Philly in 2006.  For the record, Philly is almost twice as large as Detroit and has a major tourist and night life industry that attracts non-residents.  Detroit, umm, doesn't.  By all means Ella, if you cant' argue with the facts, dispute the distribution method.

Last year, Philly had 406 murders to Detroit's 414.  1.5 million people live in The City of Brotherly Handgun Crimes, compared to 850,000 in the Motor City.  Over 300 people have been murdered in Philly this year, the worst pace since the high of 503 in 1990. 

Lost in all of these statistics, and the national attention they have brought, is the fact that gun violence in Philly has begun to creep out of 'the neighborhoods,'  and is now affecting Old City, Center City and other places tourists and business people frequent.   I work on The Avenue of the Arts and all of the high priced condo folks I talk to in restaurants and bars in the area are beginning to worry that crime is soon going to be more than something they see on the evening news.  They're afraid and Michael Nutter should be too.

Nutter is inheriting a city where there aren't enough cops, guns flow free and easy and cops have become targets.  His solution is 'stop and frisk' and Charles H. Ramsey.  You may remember Ramsey as DC's police boss actually had his patrol car stolen.  Philly's currently ineffective top cop, Sylvester Johnson says 'stop and frisk' risks urban unrest and amounts to racial profiling.  I'd argue that we're in the middle of a war here and arguing about what might happen while people die is rather like re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

News stories aren't going to solve the violence problem.  More prisons wont either.  Stop and frisk might be a good start, but violent crime comes down to 2 things.  first, there are too many guns and it's time to make it tougher to buy and sell them.  One a month is a JOKE, and will still allow you to amass a personal armory, yet the NRA has it bottled up a year later.    Second, we need a plan to provide opportunity and jobs for the people in the city who can't afford to live away from the violence.  That's a big statement and it's easy to just say it, but we've know it for decades and need to get started.  It's time for a New New Deal.

it's easy to focus on Philly or Camden or Detroit and say , 'Oh god crime there is terrible!'  But the real story is that there has been a continuing increase in violent crime in most large US cities and it's a threat to national security.  Local anti-crime and education programs have fallen under the ax at every level as we have focused on 'The War On Terror.'  It's time to admit that the war on terror abroad has been an abject failure and start to focus on winning the war on terror in our neighborhoods.

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