“The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on,” French writer Andre Gide’s cryptic comment from the 1950s, applies to Philadelphia’s 2022 homicide count of 514. While nobody expected a radical reduction in city homicides from 2021, some saw in the new stats a glimmer of hope: the city’s murder rate for 2022 was down 7 percent from its previous (and record-setting) year.
Overall, since Larry Krasner became Philadelphia’s district attorney in 2018, the city’s homicide rate has gone up 46 percent. Krasner blamed the homicide increase on the effects of the pandemic and blamed lack of access to jobs and education as contributing factors. Does joblessness cause someone to kill his neighbor, though? Is a poor education really a root cause of a shooting spree, like the one that happened around Christmas, when a 14-year-old boy was shot on the 2100 block of W. York street on the porch of his own home? Reports indicate that the boy had had an argument at school and that the “gunmen” were classmates eager for revenge. Bullet holes covered the side of the house where eight people and a one-year-old child were living.
Crime will likely be a major focus of the 2023 mayoral race, in which the city will replace outgoing mayor Jim Kenney. Eight candidates, including real estate developer Allan Domb, have announced plans to run. All have listed gun violence and the city’s homicide rate as top priorities. The city’s most radical-left progressive candidate, former city council member Helen Gym, announced that she would declare a state of emergency if elected. She does not mention whether she’d call in the National Guard, an option Kenney spurned. All of the candidates seem to realize the importance of extensive antiviolence initiatives in the public school system.
The city has announced that, beginning in January, some 100 additional police officers will patrol four of the worst police districts: the 22nd, 24th, 25th, and 39th. Additionally, 100 officers currently working in administrative jobs will be transferred to the streets. “We understand that what we are seeing is still entirely unacceptable, and that our work is far from done,” stated Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw.
In the middle of it all, of course, is Krasner, whom the Pennsylvania House voted 107–85 to impeach for not prosecuting minor crimes and promoting soft-on-crime bail policies that let criminals go free. Krasner, who sued a number of top Pennsylvania Republicans to thwart the impeachment process, is awaiting a court decision regarding the matter.
Meantime, 2023 began in Philadelphia not with the drop of a ball but with at least nine shootings in neighborhoods like Port Richmond, Strawberry Mansion, North Philadelphia, and East Frankford.
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