Police prep for busy Labor Day weekend

PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

Philadelphia’s homicide and shooting numbers have been declining in recent weeks, a trend law enforcement officials hope isn’t disrupted by the upcoming Labor Day weekend.

Last year, 19 people were shot between Saturday and Monday afternoon of the early September weekend, which marks the unofficial end of summer.

Extra officers are being called in on their days off, Deputy Police Commissioner Joel Dales said Wednesday, and others are being given extended hours, partially to offset patrols in and around the two-day Made in America music festival in Center City.

“We will be monitoring pop-up block parties, block parties that were not approved for a permit,” Dales told reporters. “We will be monitoring house parties, these Airbnb parties. So we’re going to be pretty busy all weekend.”

More than 1,500 people have been shot in the city this year, an increase of 15% from this point in 2020. The number of homicide victims, a metric that reached near-record highs last year, is up 15% and stands at 357.

Over the past four weeks, shootings are down 23% compared to the previous four-week period, which began July 5, according to information presented by Dales. During the same span, there were also five fewer homicides.

Dales said community involvement, particularly in West Philadelphia, had made a difference, along with more victims and witnesses providing information to detectives.

“If we keep this up, I’m sure these numbers will continue to go down,” he said.

With Philadelphia public schools fully reopening for in-person classes earlier this week, patrols will be shifted from recreation centers to areas around schools, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said.

Officers will still make periodic checks at rec centers, especially those where there has been violence in the past, she added.

Outlaw said plainclothes and uniformed officers will be stationed at Made in America, as well as on the blocks surrounding the festival’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway location.

The Philadelphia Police Department will have helicopters monitoring the event and rapid response teams available if necessary, Dales said.

Street closures began Sunday, Aug. 29, with the most extensive shutdowns going into effect early Saturday morning. All roads are expected to reopen by early Tuesday morning.

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