In Philadelphia, homicides rose 7 percent to a nine-year high of 406 last year, giving it the highest murder rate per 100,000 people among America’s 10 biggest cities, according to a survey of police departments by the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper, which keeps a running tally.
Philadelphia, with a population of about 1.5 million, also has the highest poverty rate — 25 percent — among those cities.
The deadly cocktail of poverty and violence mirrors that of some other major U.S. cities such as Houston and San Antonio, where poverty rates are similar and homicides registered double-digit increases last year. New York City, which has a poverty rate of 19 percent, recorded a 9 percent increase in homicides last year, although its murder rate is a quarter of Philadelphia’s.
In southwest Philadelphia, violence and poverty go hand in hand. In three local zip codes covered by a recent City of Philadelphia survey, at least 15 percent of adults are unemployed, almost a third of high school students don’t graduate, and around four in ten meet federal poverty standards. Many poverty indicators in the neighborhood, where 78 percent of residents are black, exceed those for the city as a whole.
For police officer Gretchen Flanagan, who has been patrolling the 12th District for nine years, the soaring murder rate is the result of poverty, drugs, guns and the decline of a sense of community that once encouraged local people to cooperate with police but has now been undermined by fear of retribution against anyone suspected of helping them.
There are some 38,000 gun licenses issued by the City of Philadelphia but many illegal guns are on the street, partly thanks to ‘straw purchasers’ who buy multiple guns on behalf of people — such as those with a criminal record — who are not legally permitted to own them.
Pennsylvania lawmakers, many from the state’s rural hinterland, won’t allow cities to make their own gun laws and last year defeated a plan to limit handgun sales to one per person per month statewide.
‘Pennsylvania legislators can be blamed for a large share of the homicide rate in Philadelphia,’ said Professor Lawrence Sherman, director of the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania.
REUTERS: Why Is It That A Foreign Reporter Can Come To Town For A Few Days And Figure Out Basic Fucked Realities That Continue To Elude Our Mayor, Our Governor, Our State House, Our Police Chief, Our D.A. And For That Matter Our Decider?