Philly officials look for marginal wins as homicide rate continues to rise

‘The overall reductions in violent crime specifically within our pinpoint grades are continuing to decrease in a strong and steady way,’ Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said

By: - October 21, 2021 11:14 am

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw (Philadelphia Tribune photo).

By Brian Saunders

PHILADELPHIA — There is no cause for celebration by the Philadelphia Police Department as the city’s homicide statistics show a 14% higher rate than at this time in 2020. However, Commissioner Danielle Outlaw triumphs in the decreased homicide rate in areas covered by the city’s Operation Pinpoint initiative.

“We are currently seeing a slight increase of shooting and homicides overall throughout the city,” Outlaw said.

“But with that said, the overall reductions in violent crime specifically within our pinpoint grades are continuing to decrease in a strong and steady way. This means that our operation pinpoint strategy is working with significant decreases in violent crimes throughout multiple districts across the city,” she said. “For example, several districts have seen double-digit decreases in homicides since the last year, and six have seen double-digit decreases in non-fatal shootings.”

Of note, the city’s 1st Police District has seen a 41% decrease in shooting victims and a 26% decrease in homicide victims, Outlaw said.

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Nonetheless, even while these pinpoint areas are seeing a decline in shootings and homicides, Philadelphia has 438 homicides for the year.

“I typically don’t like to throw out stats, but a win is a win is a win,” Outlaw said.

“And whenever there’s positive information, or an opportunity to show that either something was working or people are hard at work, we got to give people their kudos for that. Our officers are out there busting their tails, running in the direction of danger.”

Outlaw also emphasized the need for people to join the police department.

“We, the PPD and City Council discussed our staffing levels,” Outlaw said.

“And how those staffing numbers have slowly been dwindling for various reasons. While our operations are not impacted by the staffing shortages at this point, if our recruitment applicant rate does not intensify and we don’t get our open positions filled, the PPD may have some difficulty providing the public’s basic public safety services community.”

Mayor Jim Kenney said that if people could become city employees without having to live in the city for a year, that would open up the police department to a diverse pool of potential officers.

“It makes no sense intuitively, not to be able to recruit nationwide,” Kenney said. “And it makes no sense that anyone nationwide would want to commit to a year of living in Philadelphia before applying for a job.”

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Deputy Police Commissioner Joel Dales highlighted the amount of Violation of Uniform Firearms Act (VUFA) arrest numbers. These are arrests connected to illegal possession of firearms. The city has made 2,100 VUFA arrests this year-to-date, just 224 less than 2020’s year-end total.

Dales also said 4,822 crime guns had been seized this year to date.

“A crime gun is any gun recovered by the police as part of a criminal investigation,” Dales said.

There have also been 460 privately-made firearms known as “ghost guns” recovered.

“Also want to make note that this number does not include guns from the buyback returning programs that we were running this year,” Dales said. “Last year we recovered 4,015 crime guns by the end of October. We’re showing a 20% increase.”

Brian Saunders is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared

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