Murder Rate Soars In Philadelphia


Sylvester Johnson is the chief of police for a city in crisis.

So far this year, more than one person a day has been killed, most of them in southwest Philadelphia, reports CBS News correspondent Bianca Solorzano.

"Right now in the city we're bleeding here in the 12th (district)," said Johnson. "So we assigned extra police officers out here."

But those officers must be pulled from the other districts because the Philadelphia police force has been reduced by 500 in the last three years.

"This little band-aid approach, it's not workable," said District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham. "It's not sustainable, it's meaningless!"

Since 2002 the murder rate has climbed steadily, from just under 300 to more than 400 last year. Half of the killings remain unsolved.

The murder rate in Philadelphia right now is higher than New York City, higher than Los Angeles, higher than Chicago.

Asked why are so many people being killed in Philadelphia, the mayor of Philadelphia responded: "Well, I don't want to quarrel with you about the murder rate because for us, one homicide is too many. Just a few years ago homicides in our city was at a 17-year low."

So what happened?

"Well I mean there are a number of things that go into the homicide rate," Mayor John Street. "There... this is... this is a social problem."

One major social condition is poverty, reports Solorzano. Philadelphia's poverty rate is the highest of any major U.S. city. And Philadelphia is overwhelmed with illegal weapons.

"Now we have youngsters as young as 13, 14, 15 with Tech nines and Mac tens, and semi-automatics," said Abraham.

And it's the youngest victims Chief Johnson is most concerned about.

"What do I tell a 4-year-old child that's been shot and nothing happened?" wonders Johnson. "I afraid we can't protect you in our community?"

A community trying to survive the present, in hopes of saving the future.