Throughout the pandemic, the United States has been experiencing an uptick in gun violence across the country. Philadelphia was not immune to this spike. In 2021, Philadelphia’s homicide rate was record-setting. This can be linked to the surge of gun violence. Although there was a decline in the number of arrests and convictions, the number of shootings continued to increase.
Criminologists across the country link the general upsurge in gun violence to the pandemic, as well as the extensive impact of political and social unrest. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, roughly 557 people were killed this year, 90% of which were killed by a firearm, while police arrests have declined by 45% since 2014. Even more concerning, there has been an 84% increase in women killed.
However, District Attorney Larry Krasner reports that “we don’t have a crisis of lawlessness, we don’t have a crisis of crime, we don’t have a crisis of violence,” despite the concerning number of homicides. Instead of focusing on the surge of gun violence, the DA emphasized that non-gun violence has gone down.
Former Philadelphia Mayor, Michael Nutter, harshly criticized the DA’s statement. Throughout his mayorship, from 2008 to 2016, Nutter was able to decrease the number of homicides occurring every year. Because a majority of the homicide victims this past year have been Black people, Nutter responded in the Philadelphia Inquirer that, “it takes a certain audacity of ignorance and white privilege to ignore how the violence spikes are effecting black communities and that Krasner had “little regard for [the] human lives lost.”
Already in 2022, the Philadelphia police department has reported 22 homicides. These staggering numbers demand attention from the DA and demonstrate a need for reform. Unfortunately, the severe underemployment in the Philadelphia Police Department is not helping. With less police presence on the streets, gun owners have become more lenient with where they are taking or leaving their guns. Access to higher caliber guns has also contributed to the severity of gun violence.
In October of 2021, the police, as well as government officials, attempted to help solve the homicide increase by obtaining federal help. Philadelphia joined the National Public Safety Partnership Program, a three-year program that works to decrease violent crime. Camden, New Jersey participated in this program from 2014 to 2016 and has seen a dramatic decrease in homicides.
Although Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw believes there will be fewer homicides in 2022, it is important to remain vigilant in the city of Philadelphia and advocate for change if the pattern of violence continues.