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New Year’s Eve homicides make 2019 the worst for killings in Philly since 2007

The city is still far below the record set in 1990 when more than 500 people were killed.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.Read moreJessica Griffin / File Photograph

Two fatal shootings on New Year’s Eve pushed the homicide count in Philadelphia past the total for 2018 and made it the worst year for killings in the city since 2007.

A third fatal shooting occurred late Tuesday night. A woman was shot dead inside a home in the 5600 block of Frontenac Street in the Summerdale section of Northeast Philadelphia. A man was transported from the scene to Einstein Medical Center with a possible self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was reported in critical condition. What actually happened in the house was still being sorted out, police said.

The deaths came one day after Mayor Jim Kenney announced his pick of Danielle Outlaw, the police chief of Portland, Ore., to become Philadelphia’s new police commissioner. One of her top priorities — besides changing the scandal-plagued department — will be to figure out a way to stem the rise of deadly violence in the city.

After the two earlier shootings Tuesday, Philadelphia had 355 homicides in 2019, topping last year’s final tally of 353. The death of the woman Tuesday night appeared likely to be counted as 356.

The last time the city recorded a higher figure was 2007, with 391 slayings.

The first homicide on Tuesday occurred shortly before 11 a.m. in the 3500 block of Germantown Avenue. (Just last week, two men were shot in the same block, which is next to Temple University Hospital.) A 47-year-old man was shot in the chest and left arm. Police responding to the scene rushed him to the hospital, but he was pronounced dead minutes later.

Just after 2 p.m., an unidentified man was shot in the back and right arm while he was in the 4000 block of North Seventh Street in Hunting Park. Police took him to Temple, where he was pronounced dead at 2:28 p.m.

No arrests were reported in either case.

At the beginning of 2019, Kenney introduced a set of initiatives to reduce gun violence through a public health approach. Vanessa Garrett Harley, deputy managing director for criminal justice and public safety, said recently that it was too early to know if they had made a difference.

In stark contrast is New York City, which was expected to end 2019 with fewer homicides than Philadelphia. The population of New York City is 8.4 million compared with 1.58 million in Philadelphia.

At the height of the crack epidemic, both cities suffered record-high homicide totals. Philadelphia topped 500 in 1990. New York had more than 2,200 that year.

During the 1990s, New York experienced a sharp decline in crime, as did some other major cities. Philadelphia lagged but eventually saw similar reductions.

New York reached a modern low of 292 homicides in 2017. Philadelphia achieved its low in 2013 with 246. It stayed almost unchanged with 247 homicides in 2014, but the number has been rising ever since.

David Kennedy, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said in an email Tuesday night that New York has “learned from its mistake[s] and adapted and evolved over the time,” as well as consistently organized law enforcement with city government and community action to prevent homicide and gun violence.

"There’s clear evidence now that cities that focus on concrete, evidence-based violence prevention can make real, steady progress. Philadelphia simply hasn’t — until now, perhaps — done that,” Kennedy said.