When he was running for mayor in the Democratic primary in 2007, Michael Nutter made a promise.

At a forum on public safety, he and three other mayoral candidates were asked if they would pledge not to run for re-election if the number of homicide victims in 2010 exceeded 288, which was the rate in 2002. Nutter said yes.

But this week, a more experienced Nutter backed off that pledge, saying he should never have agreed to such a number.

"I should have never answered yes to that question. When I really reflected on it, it was a pure rookie mayor-candidate mistake," said Nutter, who later changed his target to a homicide reduction of between 30 percent and 50 percent within five years.

Since he took office and hired Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, the homicide rate has declined. The city had 305 homicides last year, compared with 333 in 2008 and 392 in 2007.

So far this year there have been 111 homicides, the same number for this period last year, which suggests that the 288 goal won't be met this year.

Nutter said he was proud of the gains he has made in crime-fighting, despite the fact that financial constraints have prevented him from keeping another campaign promise - hiring 500 more police officers.

"I want that [homicide] number to be even lower," Nutter said, "but I'm not going to base whether I run for re-election on that number, having not been able to achieve the other goal that was associated with that which was a fairly significant increase in the number of officers."

- Catherine Lucey