Thursday, October 6, 2011

Numbers UP, Arrows DOWN?!

In my discussions with local reporters on the rise in crime and fear gripping Philadelphia's neighborhoods; I often refer to the crime statistics page on the Philadelphia Police website.  While the web experience of the PPD, a pleasant byproduct of a civilian communications director and a civilian Chief Administrative Officer, is nice - it does have an interesting discrepancy that leaves many city residents distrustful in the way statistics are recorded and disseminated within the Philadelphia Police Department.
As you can see, the homicide rate is consistently rising over the last two years, yet there is a conspicuous down arrow next to it describing an 18% decline.  The old adage in crime analysis is that you can't make a body disappear, and as you can see below, the FBI Uniformed Crime Report shows that many other categories of crime are up as well. 
So my natural question to the Nutter and Ramsey administrations is: "How stupid do you think the public is?"  We see the flash mobs.  We see the murders.  We feel the fear that crime is seeping into all neighborhoods, whether you live in North Philly or Center City, Kensington or Port Richmond. 

If you've read the recent 2011 Progress Report and 5-year plan published by Commissioner Ramsey on crime prevention, it does little to realistically tackle our massive crime problem and execute proven solutions used to curb crime when this epidemic last presented itself, during the American "crack explosion" twenty years ago.  The report makes heavy mention to street arrests and the redeployment of uniformed officers to "needy" districts and Patrol Service Areas (PSAs) with higher reported crime.   There is no mention of working with other struggling law enforcement agencies like the Sheriff's Office or Prisons Department, despite proven results in cities like Los Angeles and New York in where the Sheriff and Corrections Departments have the best regional gang intelligence units helping the police with valuable investigative resources.  What about increasing task force participation with agencies like the US Marshals (Philly has the largest fugitive problem in the Northeast US), ICE/HSI/HIDTA (to combat illegal smuggling, drugs, and human trafficking), and the ATFE (to combat the trafficking of illegal guns as opposed to attacking the rights of legal gun owners)?  

The point of this blog is to raise questions in what appears to be a disingenuous effort to find real solutions to public safety in Philadelphia.  Many citizens have come to accept the appearance of safety and security as opposed to real safety and security.  Case in point - TSA.  The American TSA hires low-paid, unarmed individuals to put travellers through a slow and costly screening process, as opposed to the Israeli counterpart who uses armed personnel, better standoff distances, and working technologies (such as the American-made handheld liquid composition scanners) to insure that their airports and airline is safe, despite their inherent threats.  Locally, leaders like Nutter and Ramsey want to serve two masters.  They want things to appear safe and they want the stats to go down, but they don't want to take the ugly, necessary steps to make that happen.  Furthermore, this is not the first time Ramsey has put the appearance of public safety in front of actual public safety; as in D.C. he would deploy investigative and special operations staff back into patrol so that people can see more uniformed police in the streets - going as far as having all patrol cars operate their #1 flashing lights when in service (even though that is like a beacon for criminals to hide while the radio car passes) - even though the majority of arrests made by patrol officers carries a much lighter charge than that made through a full-field criminal investigation. 

Citizens of Philadelphia should hold Mayor Nutter to his original campaign promises of four years ago - and demand real public safety.  The road to restoring control of the city from the criminals to the taxpaying citizens is not a pretty, politically correct one.  As was seen through the Bratton/Giuliani years in New York, when crime was dropped drastically through the "broken windows" method of policing; public safety doesn't come without significant scrutiny from special interest groups, faith-based organizations, and nonprofits...but what price can be placed upon a citizenry and tourists that feel safe enough to venture out and invest in the city? 

Either way, we need to send the message to Mayor Nutter that conflicting messages on the police website and a 3-1-1 system that marginally works while hemorrhaging money from an already stressed city budget are not what we need to feel safe...we need some good, old-fashioned police work to be done from a Mayor and a Commissioner that do more than make speeches and release resources - they put their money where their mouth is.

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