Philadelphia saw across-the-board decreases in major crimes over the last two years, authorities announced yesterday, including a 22 percent drop in homicides.
"These are, of course, spectacular achievements," Mayor Nutter said yesterday at a news conference held at the 22d Police District. "And we will celebrate them for about a second. Our work is not done. We cannot rest. We must be a safer city."
Flanked by Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, newly sworn-in District Attorney Seth Williams, and other law enforcement authorities, Nutter said the Police Department and Ramsey were to be praised for the progress made in reducing crime. But, he said, "we still have a long way to go."
Overall crime is down 10 percent from 2007, the year before Ramsey took over. Violent crime is down 10.8 percent from 2007; property crime, 9.7 percent.
Many major crimes decreased from 2007 to 2008, though there were spikes in burglaries and rapes. In 2009, the numbers of all major crimes fell below 2007 levels, authorities said yesterday.
The city had 305 homicides last year, down from 333 in 2008 and 392 in 2007. Robberies were down 12 percent from 2007, aggravated assaults 9.6 percent, and rapes 6 percent. Auto theft had the most significant shift, dropping 37.2 percent since 2007, authorities said.
In addition, the city's homicide clearance rate is 75.6 percent, Ramsey said - up from less than 60 percent in 2007.
Ramsey said he and other police leaders had focused on using the force's officers more efficiently - and with fewer budgetary dollars than in years past. The department gathered data on the city's most violent intersections and corners, then organized new foot beats and patrols around those neighborhoods. In some districts, officers and commanders were assigned to monitor the same areas every day as a way to improve community relations and deter crime.
Now, Ramsey said, the department is developing goals for 2010.
"We can't afford to become complacent," he said. "We can't be satisfied. We're going to focus on guns, we're going to focus on gangs, we're going to focus on violent crime in general, but not lose sight of property crimes."
Ramsey added yesterday that until his elderly parents' house was burglarized recently, he had not realized how traumatic property crimes could be to the victims.
Theft is one of the city's most prevalent reported crimes. Last year, 37,793 incidents of theft were reported, down more than 6.5 percent from 2008's 40,425.
In addition to disclosing the crime statistics, Ramsey also announced the merging of the 22d and 23d Districts in North Philadelphia into one station. The department no longer has enough employees to fill both buildings, Ramsey said, and the 23d District is not as busy as it once was.
"Residents won't notice any difference," he said. "It's about efficiency - cutting down the number of districts means they can all be fully staffed."
In March, Ramsey said, the Third and Fourth Police Districts in South Philadelphia will also be merged, and police will look at whether it might make sense to combine additional stations.
Nutter cast the numbers in the context of his oft-repeated campaign pledge to slash the city's violent-crime rate, saying the Police Department was on its way to reducing crime at least 30 percent in the coming years.
Authorities also spoke yesterday about broader solutions to the city's crime problems, such as creating jobs and reforming the troubled court system.
"In many ways, the criminal justice system is broken," Williams said. "And it's my job as district attorney to fix it."