Kenney, police credit strategic shifts with drop in gun violence

Kenney police gun violence
Mayor Jim Kenney speaks Monday, May 15, at a news conference alongside police leadership.
Jack Tomczuk

Mayor Jim Kenney and top police commanders credited a redeployment of patrol officers and an update to the department’s “pinpoint” strategy with a reduction in gun violence so far this year.

And the Philadelphia Police Department laid out its plans to continue that trend in the summer – a time when shootings and other crimes typically spike.

Through Sunday, 151 people had been killed in the city in 2023, a decrease of 14% compared to this time last year. The total number of shooting victims – 621 – is also down 17%, according to PPD data.

In addition, the homicide clearance rate – measuring how often a suspect is arrested – has grown from 48% to 64%, and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said carjackings have dropped 33%.

“It’s heartening to see that our hard work is paying off, but there’s no question that we still have more to do,” Mayor Jim Kenney said at a news conference Monday.

In January, the city began redeploying officers to the 22nd and 25th police districts in North Philadelphia; the 24th district, which covers Kensington and Port Richmond; and the 39th district, spanning Nicetown, Tioga and parts of Germantown.

Collectively, about 40% of Philadelphia’s gun violence occurred in those areas last year, officials said.

First Deputy Police Commissioner John Stanford said the department sent academy graduates and officers from administrative units into what he called the “core four” districts. In total, the neighborhoods have received a boost of between 100 and 130 officers, he said.

The shift coincided with a realignment of PPD’s Operation Pinpoint zones based on crime data. Within the 45 zones, police focus on increasing visibility, enforcement and community engagement, Stanford said.

“Despite depleted staffing, we have consistently made informed and strategic decisions by following the data and utilizing the resources that we have available to fight the scourge of gun violence,” Outlaw told reporters.

Homicides in the Operation Pinpoint block grids have declined 21% compared to last year, and the number of nonfatal shooting victims is down 30%, Outlaw said.

Outlaw said she understands that many residents still do not feel safe and that more needs to be done. However, she said she feels sharing the promising statistics is important.

“I think the community has to know that it’s getting better,” Outlaw added. “If we don’t focus or recondition or teach ourselves how to be optimistic or resilient, or to recognize that there is hope and things to live for, I think we’ll continue to stay in that sunken place where we’ve been, quite frankly, in the last three years.”

With summer break on the horizon, the PPD has been meeting with recreation center leaders to develop a safety plan, Deputy Police Commissioner James Kelly said.

Calls emanating from recreation centers will be prioritized, and the facilities will have log books for officers to make sure they are patrolling the area, he added. Kelly said a combination of stationary beats and roving patrols will be deployed at all recreation centers and pools.

South Street and the Fashion District mall will also continue to see an enhanced police presence, and the department will periodically activate its ATV and dirt bike unit to confiscate illegal vehicles.