Numbers are numbers -- you can stretch them and twist them to make a whole bunch of different points.
Take the homicide count. As of Tuesday night, the city had recorded 197 murders, 10 more than at this time last year. Mention the unwelcome increase to a public official, and you'd likely be met with a wave of numbers. One murder is too many, he or she might say. Still, the official might add, the murder tally is down 24 percent from this point in 2007, when it stood at a mind-numbing 264.
Progress. The city's made progress.
And that's all well and good, until people hear something like this: an 87-year-old man was murdered outside his home in Cedarbrook earlier today. Police said the victim, whose name was not released, was found with a gunshot wound to the head in bushes outside his home on Pickering Avenue near Phil Illena Street at 3:48 p.m.
The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said a shell casing was found at the scene, but a weapon was not recovered. Investigators had no suspects or motives earlier tonight.
Not much else is known tonight, but this is a case that will likely be on the minds of many Philadelphians in the next few days. There'll be plenty of shock, plenty of outrage. And, in the end, probably more talk about numbers.
Check PhillyConfidential tomorrow for more updates on this tragic story.