Murder City

Image | Tony Webster

In my first Crime Beat column here in October of 2020, I wrote about Philadelphia’s 400 murders. Sadly, on Nov. 24, the city recorded 500 murders.

“I’m personally heartbroken and outraged that we lost 500 Philadelphians, including many of our children and teenagers to needless violence this year,” said Mayor Jim Kenney reacting to the high murder rate. “I never stop thinking about the victims and their families and the incredible loss these senseless deaths leave behind.”

The mayor, not surprisingly, blamed guns and called for tighter and more gun control laws.

“The volume of guns that are in circulation in our communities is at a record-high,” Kenney said. “Crime guns join a sea of illegal and legal guns that are accessible in the heat of the moment, turning what could have stayed an argument into a homicide.”

Yes, if there were no guns, violent drug gangs would settle their “arguments” with rhetoric. If there were no guns, armed robbers would settle their “arguments” with victims by a discussion about wealth distribution. And if there were no guns, drunk and drug-addled aggressors would settle their “arguments” with their antagonists by sharing a cup of coffee.

The mayor went on to blame the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania State Legislature. “The Pennsylvania General Assembly must allow us to enact reasonable controls on guns in our city,” the mayor said.

The mayor blames poverty, social injustice and state legislators who won’t let him make his own draconian gun laws, but he ought to lay the blame on the criminals who actually committed the 500 murders.

The mayor proclaimed proudly that the city has doled out $155 million to private organizations for anti-violence programs designed to reduce and prevent violence. But do these social programs stop murders? Do they truly affect the criminal behavior of drug gang shooters and armed robbers?

A disgruntled police officer who contacted me doesn’t think so.

“Some of that big money going to private social worker groups would be better spent recruiting more cops and giving overtime to cops to crack down on the high-crime areas and sweep up the criminals with guns,” the officer said to me. “But the murders won’t stop until we have a mayor who supports the police and a district attorney who puts away the bad guys.”

Veteran investigative reporter Ralph Cipriano at his popular blog noted that in 2017, the year before District Attorney Larry Krasner took office, Philadelphia recorded 315 murders.

“If Philadelphia continues on its current record pace, the city will finish the year with 563 murders, a 79 percent increase since Larry Krasner has been D.A.,” Cipriano wrote. “And yet, according to Larry Krasner, the outrageous rise in the murder rate isn’t his fault. Krasner blamed the rising murder rate on the backlog in the courts, due to the pandemic. He also blamed the Police Department, for failing to solve most of the murders. Krasner has previously blamed the city’s gun violence epidemic on the pandemic, poverty, the city’s failing schools, as well as systemic racism. The one person Larry Krasner never blames is Larry Krasner.”

Cipriano went on to state that according to statistics kept by the D.A.’s office, the conviction rate for prosecuting gun crimes in the D.A.’s office has dropped from 64 percent in 2015, when Seth Williams was D.A., all the way down to 35 percent this year under Krasner. This is a decrease of 45 percent. Cipriano also stated that according to the D.A.’s own statistics, the number of gun crime cases withdrawn or dismissed by the D.A.’s office has risen from 27 percent in 2015, all the way up to 61 percent this year under Krasner.

“Those stats that I just cited would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the one public official most responsible for the rising tide of gun violence and the epic murder rate in Philadelphia is District Attorney Larry Krasner,” Cipriano wrote.

Cipriano concludes that the D.A.’s lack of vigorous prosecution means more armed and dangerous criminals out on the streets ready to commit more crimes.

Retired Deputy Commissioner for Patrol Operations Joseph Sullivan, whom many cops and concerned citizens believe should have been appointed commissioner, commented on the 500 murders.

“As a lifelong Philadelphian, this is a heartbreaking statistic. It is even more disturbing when one considers how many of the lives lost were the result of the hasty implementation of radical policies and illogical management decisions driven by personal ideologies instituted without community input and proper consideration of the possible impacts and unintended consequences and without any form of independent third-party evaluation.”

Paul Davis’ Crime Beat column appears here each week. He can be contacted via

    • Paul Davis

      Having worked as a crime reporter and columnist in Philadelphia for many years, Paul Davis has covered organized crime, cybercrime, street crime, white collar crime, crime prevention, espionage and terrorism. He can be reached at

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