Photo credit: Laura Smythe / Philadelphia Business Journal

Philadelphia must address the issue of crime

Article published in the Philadelphia Business Journal  on October 31, 2022. Updated 8 am.

Crime continues to erode the quality of life in our city. All of us should be outraged. According to Philadelphia Police crime statistics, there were 439 homicides in Philadelphia through Oct. 30, which annualizes to a projected 529 homicides in 2022. This is a 91% increase compared with 277 homicides in 2016.

Crimes are occurring in Philadelphia that shake our sensibilities. Carjackings have tripled since 2019. On Oct. 4, a student was murdered and three students were injured by five young assailants during a football scrimmage at Philadelphia’s Roxborough High School. We are watching the erosion of civil society. 

The Republican-dominated legislature in Harrisburg needs to use common sense and put their ideology aside, and allow Philadelphia to pass laws to keep guns out of the hands of juveniles. 

Robberies are rampant on all of Philadelphia’s college campuses. On Oct. 1, eight Temple University students were robbed on the street at gunpoint. On Oct. 8, two Temple students were assaulted during robberies. There are many instances of crimes against students on all of Philadelphia’s college campuses. At some point, students will pause before choosing to attend college in our city.

On Sept. 24, a Wawa convenience store in northeast Philadelphia was ransacked by what police estimated to be a gang of 50-100 juveniles. There have also been many instances of increased shoplifting across Philadelphia. Shoplifting is a low level crime that won’t be prosecuted.

On Oct. 13, Wawa, which has a major presence in Philadelphia, announced the decision to close two of its Center City stores on Market Street. A Wawa spokesman stated, “Despite reducing hours and investing in additional operational measures, continued safety and security challenges and business factors have made it increasingly difficult to remain open in these two locations.” 

Philadelphia City Council member Mike Driscoll reported that he was told by a senior Wawa spokesman that due to increased crime, “We’re seriously considering moving out of the city of Philadelphia in our strategic planning, at least not to expand.” 

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney downplayed the announced Wawa closures, stating, “I don’t think it’s a bad omen at all. These two particular places have unique issues that had to be dealt with in a way that was more expensive for them to keep it open.” Kenney’s statement indicates that he is tone-deaf to the issue of crime in our city.

Photo credit: Laura Smythe / Philadelphia Business Journal

Larry Krasner, who ran for district attorney on a platform of reducing incarcerations, was first elected in November 2017. Krasner uses his prosecutorial discretion not to prosecute low level crimes. This has sent a signal that there are no consequences to committing not only these crimes, but others as well. It’s not surprising that murder, robbery and lower level crimes have increased since Krasner took office.

My personal experience is that many more people are running red lights than in the past, and one needs to look in their rear view mirror before deciding to stop when a traffic light turns yellow. The driver behind me may decide not to stop. ATVs (all-terrain vehicles), which are illegal in Philadelphia, plague many streets, especially North Broad Street, running lights and driving recklessly. These traffic violations are being committed with impunity.

Philadelphia has a serious shortage of police officers. The Oct. 18 report by the City Controller, titled “Review and Analysis of the Philadelphia Police Department and Other Related Police Spending“ states that the number of uniformed officers has fallen 9%, dropping from 6,590 in FY 2019 to 5,983 in FY 2022. The report states that by FY 2025, the number of officers could decline to below 5,200, given current trends in recruiting and attrition. 

The most shocking revelation of the report is that only 2,500 officers are available for patrol duty, which disproportionately impacts Black communities. Some are out due to being injured on duty, while others are assigned to administrative tasks. Clearly, civilians need to fulfill these tasks to get more officers on the streets.

We need to change the mindset of people who commit crimes. They need to know that they will be arrested and prosecuted. 

Young people need to be raised properly by their parents or guardians. They need individuals from the community to act as mentors and be strong role models. They need to be taught not to pull out a gun and shoot if they perceive that they are disrespected or as a way of winning an argument. They need to be taught how to de-escalate situations, rather than inflame them. They need to be taught self-discipline and how to settle arguments through words, not violent actions. Street gun culture needs to change.

Candidates for mayor in the May 2023 primary election need to outline in detail how they will address the issue of crime in Philadelphia. Hopefully, our next mayor will be a more effective leader than Kenney. The future of our city depends on significantly reducing crime. 

Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com.

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