Mayoral candidate Michael Nutter is expected today to formally release the details of a crime-fighting strategy he first outlined last fall, beginning with declaring an emergency in those Philadelphia neighborhoods most beset with violence.
"I will declare a crime emergency, as authorized in the Philadelphia Code, on my first day as Mayor," Nutter stated in the 15-page plan, called "Safety Now: Ten Weeks to a Safer Philadelphia."
His release of the plan underscores the central issue on some city voters' minds as the May 15 mayoral primary nears. Last week, two other candidates addressed it: U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah unveiled his anticrime plan, and State Rep. Dwight Evans promised to reintroduce a package of gun-control measures that were stymied in the General Assembly in the fall. Like Nutter, Fattah and Evans called for buying more cameras and hiring more officers.
Nutter's plan - complete with 18 footnotes touting the supporting research - notes how some of the proposals were arrived at, and what successes they've led to in other cities.
For instance, the plan says homicides in Chicago decreased by 25 percent, and nonfatal shootings by 39 percent, after the installation of more than 250 surveillance cameras in high-crime areas. Chicago now has more than 2,300 cameras, an increase that Nutter said he wants to emulate in Philadelphia with "thousands" of cameras.
Nutter is scheduled to release his plan at an 11:30 a.m. news conference at his childhood home in the 5500 block of Larchwood Avenue in West Philadelphia.
"I chose to come back to my old neighborhood when I heard about the tragic shooting death of Christopher Freeny, just two blocks away from my old home," said Nutter in a statement. Freeny, 21, the son of a Philadelphia police officer, died in a shooting last Wednesday.
"The level of violence in our city has reached epidemic proportions," Nutter's statement said. "My plan outlines immediate steps to help alleviate the problems on our streets."
Three months ago, Nutter publicly urged Mayor Street to declare a crime emergency. Street has repeatedly rejected this idea, focusing on violence-reduction programs and other efforts.
If such a declaration was made, the city would be empowered to limit or prohibit sidewalk or other outdoor gatherings; halt or limit cars and trucks within targeted neighborhoods; establish a curfew; and prohibit anyone from publicly selling, carrying or possessing any weapons.
Nutter said the city has taken such an extreme step before, in 1985, when Mayor W. Wilson Goode declared what became a six-week state of emergency in Southwest Philadelphia's Elmwood section after racial tensions flared there.
More recently, a spate of murders last summer in Washington prompted that city's police chief to declare a "crime emergency," giving himself special powers to reassign officers quickly. The murder rate then fell to its lowest level in two decades, although experts say this was mostly because of changing demographics and an improving local economy.
Other elements of Nutter's plan include:
Implementing "stop and frisk" procedures to confiscate guns when a police officer identifies a reasonable suspicion of an illegal weapon.
Establishing a new Public Safety Cabinet to coordinate efforts of agencies involved in crime prevention. Nutter said he'd have weekly meetings of this group, including the mayor, district attorney, president judges, the police commissioner, Department of Human Services commissioner, and probation and parole chiefs.
Hiring 500 additional police officers over the next three years, at a cost of $130 million.
Reviewing city-hiring practices to give ex-prisoners increased chances of obtaining certain city jobs.