Mayor Michael Nutter told The Tribune at an editorial board meeting on Monday that while the federal government had justifiably marshaled enormous resources to combat international terrorism, there hasn’t been a comparable response to crime and violence in America’s cities.
Nutter, who is also president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said such a response is needed to address the street violence perpetrated across the nation every year. To that end, he has drafted a proposal calling for the creation of a National Commission on Domestic Terrorism, Violence and Crime in America.
“The federal government should expend the tremendous resources it has to track down international terrorists and fight them,” he said. “But when it comes to domestic terrorists – and let’s face it, if little children can’t play outside, and people are prisoners in their homes because of the crime and violence on our streets – that’s terrorism. In America we have 11,000 or 12,0090 people murdered every year. We need a comparable response to that kind of terrorism, and we haven’t seen that. When 9/11 happened, the Department of Homeland Security was created from scratch; we changed the laws governing civilian flights, changing the way people fly forever. Whenever we decide we want to do something, we do it. We sent people to the moon because we wanted to. We can do the same when it comes to crime and violence.”
The proposal calls for Congress to establish a joint investigatory committee to look at crime and violence and their prevention. If established, the committee would make recommendations on what government can do on the local, state and federal levels to reduce domestic terrorism, violence and crime.
The mayor’s remarks were part of a candid editorial board meeting at the Tribune. Nutter said that while the number of homicides in Philadelphia has dropped for the first quarter of 2013, the next six months could drastically alter things — and that’s something no one wants to see.
The mayor was joined by Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and Deputy Commissioner Richard Ross, who pragmatically stated that while the city has made progress when compared to other years, it’s still not time for the victory party. Not with a 15-year old boy – the latest victim to gun violence — fighting for his life. The boy, who was shot on Sunday afternoon in the 400 block of East Washington Lane, was hit in the chest just after 3:30 p.m. Nutter said that while the number of homicides is down,, shooting victims are being hit multiple times, and there are more high-powered firearms on the streets.
“We’ve had a good quarter, but obviously a quarter doesn’t make a year — and this could change over the next six months,” he said. “Of course that’s not something we want to see happen. So far we’ve had a 39 percent reduction in homicides [from last year] – and when we compare those numbers with the first quarter of 2007, it shows a 47 percent reduction. When we came in office in 2007 I stated that I wanted to see a 30 percent drop in homicides, so we’re a little ahead of that. Everything is generally in comparison to trends in previous years. The first quarter of 2013 was significantly better than the first quarter of 2012, which was pretty bad, the first three months were hard for us and we ended 2012 with 331 homicides.”
Nutter said that 2012 was only slightly better than 2011, when the city saw 324 people killed. For the first quarter of 2012 there were 89 homicides. For the first quarter of 2013 there have been 54 homicides. Ramsey said the Police Department has not only redeployed manpower, but replaced individuals in key positions.
“Sometimes, as with any job, someone can get burned out and you need fresh eyes. We’re doing a lot of things differently,” he said. “We reorganized manpower and our task forces. We started seeing results last year and identified 32 hot spots citywide. In different districts there are different problems. In the Northwest part of the city we see more property crimes, whereas in the Southwest there’s more gun violence. The district attorney’s office has its own initiatives such as recommending high bail for the most violent offenders – keeping them off the streets.”