Friday, May 04, 2007

Crime in Philly.

Can I just say that crime is out of control in the city of Philadelphia? This may not come as any big surprise to anyone, what with the 125 gun homicides all ready this year -- we're well on the way to surpassing the 406 last year -- but beyond those grim stats there's also the day to day violence which is endemic. I'm sure everyone knows someone who has been a victim of a crime or has been a victim themselves in the past year.

Two friends of mine in the last six months have been assaulted on the streets of Fishtown. One friend was beaten by three young white males who jumped out of their car and just started pounding on him, for no reason. Another was a young woman in her twenties who was mugged and had her purse stolen by three young white males who also jumped out of a car. In that case, happily, she happened to see those same young men in another location many days later and called the police who apprehended them. That happy outcome, unfortunetly is probably, in most cases a rare event.

To me, though, the most egregious incident happened just three days ago at a well known local restaurant in Northern Liberties, an area that is supposedly on its way up. Two white males were asked to leave the premises at closing and proceeded to pummel an employee around the face and head, giving him two black eyes. One waitress was knocked unconscious and a cook was stabbed with a throwing dart in the ear and neck. The circumstances surrounding the arrival of the police and the resulting release of the assailants are murky, but the fact is that these two brutal thugs are still walking our streets as free men. From what I've heard, second hand, mind you, is that all the employees were too intimidated to press charges and the police therefore allowed the men to go not even bothering to verify their identities.

This may or may not be the whole story, but I'm sure we all know of similar stories of criminals getting away scott-free through sloppy police work. I don't wish to be too harsh on the police, though; this city is severely under-policed for the size of the population. The prosecutor’s office is also overwhelmed and the intimidation of witnesses and the lack of protection from them is well documented.

There are currently 2 million people in prisons in the United States -- up from 200,000 thirty years ago -- and about 100,000 are being released into the general population every year. Since the 80's, when punishment became be all and end all of incarceration, instead of rehabilitation, criminals have only become more violent and recidivist. In the years to come we’re all likely to run into some of these people and they will be wanting to take out their punishment on us.

We’d better think about hiring some more police and start working on finding more room in prison for the truly violent offender. We haven’t the luxury of imprisoning the non-violent drug offender any more.


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