LAST NIGHT, Philadelphia's five mayoral candidates were asked how they would stem the city's tide of violence.

One would declare an emergency. One promises job training. One wants to reverse the mind-set of violence. One said education, not crime, is the issue.

And one didn't show up.

Crime - considered the No. 1 issue to voters - was the focus of a mayoral forum held last night at St. Joseph's University and sponsored by the school's Institute of Violence Research and Prevention.

The above responses were, in order, from: former Councilman Michael Nutter, businessman Tom Knox, state Rep. Dwight Evans and U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah.

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady was the no-show. In his place, he sent state Rep. Louise Bishop, who said Brady had been detained by an unspecified emergency.

In general, the candidates agreed on the big issues. That included both short-term steps - like more cops, community involvement, and greater use of surveillance cameras - and long-term goals like better education and job opportunities.

But they also displayed different priorities in how they would take on crime.

Nutter was the most urgent, saying the city should declare a crime emergency to reclaim the streets.

"I think the mayor of Philadelphia has to stand up and call it for what it is," he said, urging more cops and police units directed to the most crime-ridden neighborhoods.

Knox stressed the need for vocational education and job training in prisons, saying that a skilled workforce was important to the city's future.

"Educate, don't incarcerate," he said.

Evans said faith-based organizations and community groups had to join the political effort to keep young people from falling into patterns of violence.

"This is a learned behavior. We have to figure out how to reverse that behavior," he said.

Fattah said that education, not violence, was his priority.

"For me, crime is not the number one issue," he said. "I think we need to create opportunities."

Before the debate, four crime researchers presented ideas on fighting crime in Philadelphia.

Joseph Tierney, executive director of the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, called upon the mayoral candidates to make a pledge to reduce gun violence.

"The pledge is simple: 'I will not run for re-election if the number of murder victims exceeds the number 288 in 2010,' " he said, noting that the homicide rate in 2002 was 288.

"If a candidate will not take that pledge, my advice is don't vote for them."

Moderator John DiIulio - a nationally regarded expert on youth-violence issues - asked the candidates if they would make the promise.

Evans, Knox and Nutter signed on to the pledge, while Fattah declined, saying the voters would decide if he was a successful mayor. *