PHILADELPHIA TOOK center stage last night in the growing national debate over rising urban crime, thanks to a national network newscast - even as the city's streets offered fresh, blood-splattered evidence that murder here is out of control.

Just hours before Katie Couric told viewers of the "CBS Evening News" that Philadelphia is a "city under siege," an unidentified 26-year-old man inside a West Philadelphia barbershop was gunned down in a hail of bullets. It was the 233rd homicide of 2007, a pace of more than one a day.

The CBS report - which noted that the number of homicides has been increasing in many large American cities - focused on North Philadelphia, where reporter Byron Pitts said that "life is often short and illegal handguns are cheap." To prove his point, a 19-year-old - whose face was obscured and who was said to have been just released from jail - pulled a pistol from his front pocket and said, "Everybody's got a gun everywhere."

That image may have shocked a viewer in Tacoma or Wichita, but it would come as little surprise here in Philly, where fear and despair seem to be rising with the summer temperatures. From Friday morning to Monday morning, 37 people were shot in Philadelphia, according to police.

"You never know what's gonna happen next," a teen who declined to give his name said outside the barbershop slaying at 62nd and Race streets. "I got one more year of school left, then I'm gonna try to get out of here."

The growing homicide frenzy brought the field generals in the city's war on crime - Mayor Street and Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson - out to the front lines, partly to talk solutions but also to voice frustration about curbing guns and getting witnesses to cooperate with police.

"The biggest problem is the attitude - the total disrespect for the life of another human being," Street said as he visited Abay Wheelers Bar on 62nd Street in Kingsessing. As he spoke, city Licenses and Inspections officials were padlocking the bar as a public nuisance after a shooting there early Sunday left three dead and one wounded.

The mayor also said that the city's gun laws have been on the books since 1895 and are inadequate for dealing with the firepower on Philadelphia's streets in 2007. He downplayed the then-pending CBS report, and his aides could not be reached for comment after it aired.

Johnson voiced greater frustration, especially at the lack of witnesses coming forward in cases such as the Kingsessing triple-killing. Of as many as 30 bystanders, only two have talked with cops - and they have offered little information.

"What I'm saying is that we in our community have to come forward and start standing up," the city's top cop said. "Any time you have inside of a bar four people shot, eight or nine shots fired, and everyone leaves, then we're not going to solve these crimes."

Johnson noted that over the weekend, a 23-year-old man was shot to death. "As the police approached, [a] male who was cradling the victim gets up and runs away. It's his 15-year old brother, who won't even talk to the police. His brother is murdered, but he won't talk to us."

Johnson said it's also important to discuss the fact that the majority of victims are black.

"The majority of people unemployed are Afro-Americans; the majority of people who are high-school dropouts are Afro-Americans," he said. "The majority of ex-offenders are Afro-Americans. You have to look at that real big picture."

The commissioner noted that the killings are concentrated in a handful of Philadelphia neighborhoods - a point that was echoed in the CBS report, the first of two parts.

The newscast could have come down even harder on Philadelphia. Earlier in the day, reporter Pitts had written on the CBS Web site that Philadelphia is like "a war zone."

"Just like Baghdad, there are law-abiding citizens whom we met that keep a gun close by when they take their children to school, go to the grocery store and when they close their eyes at night in their own bed," he wrote. "In Philadelphia they're not called 'insurgents'; they're drug dealers and thugs."

The televised report, however, did not mention Baghdad. And experts have cautioned that comparisons between Philadelphia and Iraq's war-ravaged capital are a slippery slope, since the death rate is far higher in Baghdad, and the root causes of violence so radically different.

But one thing is the same 11,000 miles apart, and that is the senselessness of violent death.

Minutes after the West Philadelphia barbershop shooting, a woman sat on her porch yards away from the melee, having a late lunch. Between bites, she said, "I don't even know who was in there, but I'm just saying a prayer that the parents of whoever it was get through this somehow."

The West Philly barbershop murder and the triple slaying in the Kingsessing bar were just two in a series of shootings that have rocked an already shaken city in the last few days.

On Sunday night, for example, police were called to 22nd and Reed streets in South Philadelphia and found an overturned car with a 14-year-old inside who had been shot in the back. The youth was rushed to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in critical condition.

Solutions seem to be elusive. One much-talked-about approach has been increasing the number of surveillance cameras - but that approach has faltered in a section of Wynnefield, where crime cameras installed last year haven't operated since May.

Charles Tunstall, 23, was shot in the head and killed on Sunday at 54th and Arlington - the site of one of the nonoperational cameras.

"The cameras do not work. They don't make me feel safer and crime has not gone down," said lifelong Wynnefield resident Eddie Anderson, 63. "There is always lots of drama around here. Everybody is afraid."

Yesterday, officials bickered over whether the cameras - installed last fall with $493,000 in federal grant money obtained by U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah - had ever worked.

A spokesman for the Philadelphia Commercial Development Corp. - which operated the cameras - said they had once worked but had to be shut down because "someone was hacking into the system." *

Staff writer Simone Weichselbaum contributed to this report.