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DN Editorial: DOWNSIDE OF '12

An epidemic of killing & other reasons to be ashamed

WE FIGURED you'd want the good news first. Yesterday, we featured the high points of 2012, which included everything from more parks funding to nifty pension tricks. Now here's the bad news:

The murder crisis. It all started with an elderly man in South Philly. On New Year's Day, Joseph Testa became the first homicide victim of 2012. He was trying to break up a fight between two men whose beef started years ago over parking spaces. So it goes in a city where murder is seen as a legitimate form of conflict resolution. Almost 12 months later, a total of 327 people have been murdered in 2012. To put that into perspective, that's the equivalent of more than a dozen Sandy Hook massacres. Here's another way to think about it: There was more murder this year than in 2011 (when there were 324 homicides), 2010 (306) and 2009 (302). We need stricter gun-control laws. We need innovative mental-health care. We also need more good cops.

Bad Cops. Sadly, as bullets were flying in the streets this year, bad cops were running wild. A video of a Philadelphia cop walloping a woman was seen around the world. A group of questionable narcotics officers lost all credibility when the District Attorney's Office decided it wouldn't ask them to testify anymore in drug cases. A police inspector was promoted despite complaints of sexual harassment against him. A woman accused an Internal Affairs boss of sexual harassment. These bad cops are not only a nightmare for victims, but they also undermine our many good cops. They make residents distrust anyone with a badge. To even begin to combat these bad cops, the city needs independent police oversight with resources and teeth.

Monsignor William J. Lynn's Conviction. For decades, priests destroyed the lives of innocent children as the Philadelphia Archdiocese not only stood idly by, but also enabled the horrific acts. Our local government also did too little for too long. Then, in June, Monsignor William J. Lynn became the first Catholic leader in the country to be convicted for covering up sex abuse by clergy. We commend the grand jury, judge and prosecutors for taking on one of the most influential institutions in the world because it was the right thing to do. Lynn was sentenced to a mere three to six years in prison. That's not enough, considering that sex-abuse victims were given a lifelong sentence of suffering.

Council attacks zoning. In 2012, Philadelphia got a brand-spanking-new zoning code for the first time in more than 50 years. That overhaul cost taxpayers $2 million and took four long years. In other words, it was a bargain. The new code was understandable, business-friendly and a fair compromise between residents and developers. But then Council, including members Darrell Clarke, Jannie Blackwell and Brian O'Neill, began picking it apart, adding parking requirements to certain areas and changing how developers interact with neighborhood groups. Council is considering even more onerous changes next year. Instead, Council should hold off until next summer, when the city is planning to release a report on the new code's effects.