Cities fighting crime could use more help

Philadelphia police were called to a rowhouse in Grays Ferry where construction workers renovating a vacant property discovered human remains. (ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer)

The U.S. Justice Department’s surge of 50 agents, who have been working with Philadelphia police and the District Attorney’s Office, is having a welcome payoff. Since early June, they’ve made 300 arrests on assault, drug, weapons, and other charges, and seized 80 guns.

The Violent Crime Reduction Partnership represents an unprecedented level of cooperation, according to Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison. The theory behind the project is that a small number of Philadelphians commit a large number of crimes.

The partnership has identified the city’s top troublemakers and is going after them. The partnership is building systems to share intelligence on dangerous individuals, areas, and businesses.

Earlier this year, a similar effort in Oakland, Calif., resulted in 90 arrests and the seizure of 92 guns. Officials there said the “worst of the worst” were being taken off the streets. New Orleans has a similar program.


Does the success of a four-month, federal anti-crime push suggest Philadelphia needs more police on the streets?

The Nutter administration, which directed earlier surges involving greater coordination between police and District Attorney Seth Williams, pushed the idea with Attorney General Eric Holder, who was here recently to draw attention to the partnership.

An occasional surge of federal help, though, isn’t enough in a city where a violence is so pervasive.

A 13-year old and his 17-year-old brother were shot to death inside their Overbrook Park home recently, surrounded by illegal drugs and $102,000 in cash. Their deaths speak to the need for a more comprehensive national strategy aimed at urban violence.

Gillison says that even after federal agents pull out of the four-month Philadelphia effort, a strong bond among the agencies will exist. That bond is needed in every city where a virtually unemployable hard-core criminal element has become a daily threat.