Five circles chalked on the sidewalk - one for each shell casing - were all that remained yesterday on Cumberland Street just east of 30th in Strawberry Mansion to indicate that this was the scene of Philadelphia's 128th homicide of 2007.

A brown stain on the wall could be blood, but it was hard to tell.

It happened at 7:12 p.m. Monday, across the street from a church built in 1888, when three men were caught in a burst of gunfire triggered by an argument.

One of the men, Robert Austin, 29, of the 2800 block of North Woodstock Street, was hit several times and died shortly afterward at Temple University Hospital, police said. The other men, aged 21 and 31, each suffered hip wounds and were in stable condition. Because they are witnesses, police will not release their names.

As it was in 106 of the other slayings in the city, the weapon was a handgun and - as is often the case - it was a shell-case-spewing semiautomatic pistol.

And as did 87 of this year's homicides, this one took place outdoors, where bullets fired wildly have a greater chance of hitting unintended targets.

People in this neighborhood are not inclined to give their names to men with notebooks, and even when they are assured they are talking to a reporter, they say they do not want to see their names in print.

Still, there is a willingness to talk, a desire to be heard.

"It's crazy," said a woman with a pre-teen boy. "There's shooting all the time now."

"Did they catch who did it?" she asked, before waving to a friend in crutches, who, she said, had been shot in the leg.

The answer to the question was no. And if the current rate of solving homicides holds, there's an almost 50-50 chance the shooter won't be found.

Police say this is due in part to the reluctance of witnesses to help the police, based either on fear or an unwritten code of the streets.

"We need people to stand up," said a 26-year-old man sitting on a stoop. "Who's going to be accountable for the future?"

"People don't care about people anymore," said his friend, 32. "Violence doesn't take a day off."

The younger man said the neighborhood could use a rec center and places where people can use computers or gather.

But he also said that with so much of the violence being black-on-black crime, the African American community needs to make its own stand.

"When are we going to think about the future?" he said "It can be anybody who gets killed - your mother, your grandmother, your kids, your cousin."

Then, as an afterthought, he said, "The racists are happy we're doing this to ourselves."

The man said the violence stemmed in part from the desire everyone has to be recognized.

"It's the easy way to get recognized, the street way," he said. "The right way is the hard way."

As he spoke, a television news helicopter hovered over a street to the north.

"Every time that helicopter comes around here, it's something bad," he said.

Contact staff writer Joseph Gambardello at 215-854-2153 or jgambardello@phillynews.com.