Philadelphia is experiencing the dreaded long, hot summer. Violent crime continues to soar, from premeditated ambushes to seemingly random juvenile attacks. Under district attorney Larry Krasner’s catch-and-release crime policies, Philadelphia homicides are in a statistical dead heat with last year’s record-breaking numbers. The response of city leaders? They’re imposing a lockdown, creating a curfew, and politely asking murderers to stay home at night.
The summer literally started with a bang, as the first hot weekend led to a mass shooting in the popular tourist destination on South Street, with three victims murdered and many others injured. Then, at a Fourth of July celebration, two police officers were shot, leading to Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney’s now-infamous admission that he was tired of being the city’s leader and would be happy when he was out of office. Just a few days after the Fourth of July disaster, another Philadelphia murder victim—a young man allegedly killed by gang violence—was taken in a procession to a cemetery. As the line of mourners in cars crossed a street on the city’s outskirts, men lying in wait drove up alongside the procession, got out of their car, and opened fire on two other young men in one of the funeral cars, killing both. Police did not hesitate to call the murders an “ambush.” So now the funerals of homicide victims are themselves occasions for more murders—a stark testament to Philadelphia’s out-of-control retaliatory violence.
The latest high-profile murder almost defies belief. A 73-year-old man was walking along a North Philly street when seven teens, boys and girls, attacked the man with a traffic cone, beating him to death. It all was captured on video, which has since been released to the public in an attempt to identify the teens, who looked like they were having a great time killing a defenseless old man.
Philadelphia’s response to the violence would be laughable if the subject matter weren’t so grim. The fainthearted Mayor Kenney, who wishes to be elsewhere, signed a bill establishing a 10 p.m. curfew for everybody under 18. But police aren’t even allowed to fine juveniles out past curfew; instead, officers must make “every reasonable effort” to take them home. Not surprisingly, criminal-justice experts call the curfew “pointless.” Perhaps it should have occurred to the mayor that teens who will not follow the law against killing are also unlikely to observe a law that says be home by 10 p.m.
There may be a ray of hope, however, thanks to an increasingly vocal wing of the city leadership. Several Philadelphia leaders sound like they’ve had enough. Former mayor Michael Nutter has called out Krasner’s failure to prosecute murderers and other violent criminals. Philadelphia city council president Darrell Clarke suggested that the police should go back to the practice of stop-and-frisk when reasonable suspicion exists that somebody is committing a crime, such as a felon carrying a gun—a law-enforcement practice constitutional in the United States since 1968. (Krasner and Kenney disagree with Clarke, naturally.) City council majority leader Cherelle Parker wants to fund putting more police officers on the street in the most violent sections of Philadelphia.
Kenney and Krasner are white liberal politicians who ran on promises to save Philadelphia’s oppressed minorities. Nutter, Clarke, and Parker are moderate black leaders who actually live and interact with the city’s crime victims. Kenney and Krasner want to pontificate; Nutter, Clarke, and Parker want to protect residents. And that’s the black-and-white of the current politics of violence in Philadelphia.
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