The Philliness in Round Numbers
Posted on Mon, Dec. 25, 2006
Community leaders decried the spiraling violence. The killings occurred in North, Northeast and West Phila.
By Todd Mason
Inquirer Staff Writer
There was little peace or hope on Philadelphia streets on the weekend before Christmas, as four men died early yesterday in separate shootings, pushing the city's 2006 homicide tally to 400.
The number of homicides in the city so far this year stands at its highest level since 1997, when 418 were recorded. From 1990 to 1997, the city averaged 435 homicides annually, with a high of 503 in 1990.
Community leaders warned of a bloody new year unless residents from throughout the region make a concerted response to the violence.
"We are beyond the prayer rallies," said the Rev. Robert P. Shine Sr., pastor of Berachah Baptist Church in Philadelphia, and president of the Pennsylvania State Wide Coalition of Black Clergy.
"When something is happening in the city of Philadelphia that is beyond the city's ability to cope, then we all need to help," said Diane Edbril, executive director of CeaseFire PA, an advocacy group working for tougher gun-control laws in Pennsylvania.
Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson last night said the answer goes beyond gun control and policing, noting that gun laws today are what they were in 2002, when homicides numbered 288.
"Unless you change the mind-set, [if] you take away the guns, I think you're still going to have the stabbings and the beatings," Johnson said.
Issues such as education and jobs need to be addressed, too, he added.
Bilal Qayyum, cofounder of the antiviolence group Men United for a Better Philadelphia, said the numbers could continue to rise. "Until we as a city totally change this environment, we're going to see the same in 2007 as we saw in 2006," he said.
Young black men "feel they are locked out of the system," Qayyum said. "What they are doing is out of anger and frustration."
"There needs to be a total, citywide effort to clamp down" on violence in schools and on the streets, Shine said.
Describing the death toll as a form of domestic terrorism, Shine also urged the state legislature to adopt tougher gun-control laws to limit access to handguns.
Qayyum stressed the need for jobs in blighted neighborhoods. "If I don't have any dollars to take care of my family, I have some hard decisions to make," he said.
The TrekMedic is left to ponder:
It is with a bit of schadenfreude that the murder rate had eclipsed the 400-person mark. The next question is: What of 2007? If 400 deaths isn't enough to get people to act, will 500 be enough? What, then, is the tipping point? How many deaths will it take to get the citizens of Philadelphia to finally stop pulling the big "D" lever every election, without thought? Its isn't the guns, folks, and it isn't the responsibility of Harrisburg to solve this problem! How many deaths before people realize the current administration, which is presently grooming the presumed next, can't - or won't - act on the behalf of it citizens and not party cronies?