In addition to more gun violence than that in most other cities, Philadelphia now has more anti-gun hotlines - two of them, offering rewards up to $1,000 for tipsters willing to help police find illegal guns.
The first telephone hotline, set up by the Street administration in 2003, is run by the Police Department's narcotics bureau.
Tipsters can call 215-683- GUNS, leave an anonymous tip and earn a reward, anywhere from $250 to $1,000, if the police find the gun and make an arrest.
Details of a new, similar program were announced yesterday by two West Philadelphia politicians, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah and state Sen. Vincent Hughes, along with the Citizens Crime Commission of the Delaware Valley, which will run the new hotline at 215-546-TIPS.
Like the Police Department's hotline, the Crime Commission's will take anonymous calls around the clock from anyone who wants to report the location of an illegal gun.
It could be a machine gun or attack rifle, illegal for anyone to own; a weapon carried illegally by someone without a valid permit, or a gun owned illegally by a felon who has lost his right to own any kind of gun.
The Crime Commission will forward the tip to the police. If it leads to a gun seizure and an arrest, the commission will arrange for the tipster to get a $1,000 check within 72 hours, the organizers announced yesterday.
The payments will come from an initial pool of $100,000 in private donations, raised by Fattah. He identified two of the donors as the Parkway Corp. and the city electricians' union, and said he is looking for more.
"My bet is that we're gonna run out of money quicker than you think," Fattah told a reporter who questioned whether the program could succeed in the anti-snitch culture of some communities.
"We're offering a thousand dollars," Fattah said. "All you have to do is call, say, 'Here's a guy, he drives this kind of car, he's in the neighborhood usually around this time, he's got a 9-millimeter.' . . . If the arrest is made, your name's never gonna be known; you're gonna get a thousand dollars within 72 hours."
The Police Department's hotline was funded in 2003 with an initial grant of $100,000 in city tax dollars. Police say it has fielded 919 tips - an average of less than one a day - and led to confiscation of roughly 250 weapons, mostly handguns.
But the city's pool of reward money is down to several thousand dollars, and police say they are still waiting for word on whether the city will provide more money.
Mayor Street's spokesman, Joe Grace, said last night that the administration intends to continue funding.
"It's an important part of what the Police Department is doing," he said.
The new hotline is more generous than the old one. Under the city-funded program, cheap handguns normally rate only a $250 reward, while the $1,000 payoffs are reserved for more dangerous weapons, like shotguns or attack rifles.
It was unclear whether Fattah was aware of the city's hotline when he initially proposed the new one, part of an anti-crime initiative unveiled by his campaign last month.
Fattah's spokesman, Ron Goldwyn, said Fattah wanted the new program "to complement other programs funded by governmental sources." *