In a city that always frets over its perceived murder crisis, this qualified as good news.

Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson told a news conference yesterday afternoon that Philly detectives - helped by the FBI and U.S. marshals - have arrested 19 homicide suspects over the past two weeks.

Johnson called the busts a "tremendous relief for the Philadelphia Police Department," noting that many of the suspects were statistically more likely to be involved in future crimes.

"We have 19 families who can sigh in relief knowing the person who killed their loved one is now custody," he said.

Johnson took the occasion to point out that although the city often is portrayed as being beset with violence, overall crime numbers - including homicides - are down from a year ago, and arrests are up 3 percent to almost 71,000.

But several hours later, the homicide tally rose to 388. Investigators said Karim Miles was shot multiple times at 6:38 p.m. on Cecil Street near Springfield Avenue, West Philadelphia.

Miles, 29, was pronounced dead at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania about 20 minutes later. Investigators believe that the motive was a robbery.

Earlier in the day, Homicide Capt. Michael Costello confirmed that the homicide toll was down by a tad; at this point last year, the tally stood at 396. The clearance rate for solving homicide cases stands just below 60 percent, he said.

Costello said his detectives are starting to see "more and more cooperation" from residents and witnesses, and have benefited from working with the FBI and marshals.

"Basically whatever we ask them for, they've been giving us," Costello said.

Johnson added that he believes that the work of local and federal law enforcers sometimes goes unnoticed.

"The public doesn't realize how hard these people go out there and work on a continuous basis, putting their lives on the line," he said. *