I don’t write much about Philadelphia, for a number of reasons. First, it’s not the largest or most well known city in world, let alone the U.S., let alone the Northeast. If I wrote frequently about this city, a lot of you out there would lose interest in what this blog has to say. At least, I know I’m not interested in reading a blog about what’s happening in New York or Nashville or Kansas City or Denver.
But I can’t help but bring this up. On the right is the front cover of yesterday’s Philadelphia Daily News. Obviously, the lead story is a murder story. In a city as large as Philadelphia, 1 million people or more, murder is fairly commonplace. Even murder so gruesome as this:
Eric Johnson had a problem.
His new girlfriend was supposed to come to town last week, but his old flame was still in the mix, sharing a home with him in Port Richmond.
With little compassion, cops said, Johnson, 36, came up with a cold-hearted solution: he brutally killed his live-in girlfriend, Jean Jackson, and went to extreme lengths to make sure she would never be identified.
When a group of kids discovered Jackson’s body in a vacant wooded area near train tracks on Saturday, her head was covered in a pillowcase and a plastic bag, and a wool scarf was tied at her neck, cops said.
Her collarbone and both of her legs were broken. All of her ribs were crushed. There were clear “attempts to mutilate her face and grotesque attempts to mask her identity,” said Chief Inspector Joe Fox, head of detectives.
The City of Philadelphia is in serious trouble.
In 2005, the murder rate was so high in Philly that USA Today penned an article about it, and we finished with 377 murders that year. Last year, 2006, 406 people died in Philadelphia. On April 2nd of 2006, 84 people had been murdered. By the same date this year, in 2007, 104 people have lost their lives violently. That’s a 25% increase. If this continues, Philadelphia will see 500 murders this year. Philadelphia hasn’t seen 500 murders since 1990. For reference, New York City, a metropolis with 5 times more people walking around, had 590 murders last year. They’ve had less than 90 so far this year.
The above quoted article displays one of the biggest problems in the city. These murders aren’t at the hands of gangbangers, or mobsters or any of that nonsense. There are hundreds of cases like the above one. Someone gets in a stupid argument with someone else, and kills them to solve it.
The second problem, which has been cropping up more and more as this problem has waxed, is reported by The Field Negro:
Well I was almost numb to it; and then I read this account from a police officer who was in the middle of the chaos, and it woke me the hell back up. The officer tells it like this: “Fourteen year-old Tarton George was dead,the victim of an apparently calculated drive by shooting at 10:20 PM, in North Philly. The doctors at Temple had cut open George’s 21 year old companion,whom police have not identified, and were messaging his heart when his younger brother began to tell police what happened.
The boys mother cut him off and loudly warned her son “not to say a f*****g word. Don’t talk to the f*****g cops,” another police officer quoted the woman as saying. “We handle this our own way.” “I couldn’t believe it,” said one of the officers who asked the Philadelphia Inquirer (from where I got this story) not to identify him.
Then moments later four young men ran up to the victim’s brother and told him to “say nothing to the cops.” The scene according to those who were there, grew even more surreal. The Mother of a third shooting victim arrived and told the police: “I know who did it, and he’s in this crowd.” As the woman looked around for the gunmen, the crown berated her and told her to keep silent, the officer told the Inquirer. “People were telling her to be quiet and saying,’We’ll get you bitch.'” The cops then called for reinforcements.
“How are we supposed to end this when we’re up against these kind of societal values?” “It’s discouraging and an absolute disgrace” said another officer, Sgt. Anthony McFadden.
You’ve got a little problem with someone, so you kill them. You don’t worry too much about it, because no one’s going to rat you out.
John Street has been Philadelphia’s 97th Mayor in Philadelphia since 2000. We adore our Mayors here. Ed Rendell, Street’s predecessor, used his popularity in Philadelphia to find himself in the Governor’s mansion. John Street has been under FBI investigation for corruption since nearly the day he got into office. It seems as though every person he knows is going to jail for some form of bribery or grifting. He hardly ever addresses the violence, and when he does, it’s with empty words and nearly a total lack of action.
Sylvester Johnson is the Police Commissioner, appointed to the post in 2002, after John Timoney came under fire for his questionable policies. Under Johnson’s command, the the violent crime and murder rates have risen every single year, at a time when violent crime is dropping in major cities.
The police are doing what they can, but there really isn’t much to be done when the problem isn’t gangs or pushers or anything like that, and when no witnesses will come forward. The politicians…well, they’re not doing much. They just added a bunch of highway patrolmen. So, ya know, for all the road rage murder we get, someone will be there to arrest ’em. Maybe. Hundreds of people went to the state capital in Harrisburg to try to get the state legislature to dramatically restrict gun laws in Philadelphia. The PA State Congress passed the buck: “This is a Philadelphia problem, not a state problem.”
This city is bleeding. I don’t know what it will take to stop it, but it needs to be dramatic, and it needs to be soon.