Slayings mark ugly beginning to 2011

Just a month into the year, Philadelphia police have their hands full with a spike in violent crime, including seven deadly shootings over the weekend.

As of Monday, the city’s official murder count was at 24, not including a woman and seven babies allegedly killed by abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, who was charged two weeks ago. That number represents the highest year-to-date total since 2007, when 31 people were slain in the first month. Rapes are also up 36 percent from a year ago, according to police data from Jan. 23, while robberies and aggravated assaults by gun are down.

Reducing crime was a major part of Mayor Michael Nutter’s 2007 campaign. During his inauguration, he pledged to cut murders by 30 to 50 percent within three to five years. In 2010, homicides dropped about 22 percent from 2007. His campaign did not return a call left for comment.

“It is a major focus and the recent trend is of deep concern to the mayor and to the police commissioner, and we are addressing it in a variety of ways, including new forms of community policing,” said Mark McDonald, Nutter’s press secretary.

Local political consultant Larry Ceisler said crime should not be a problem for Nutter during his re-election campaign. “Has he hit every mark? No, but I don’t think he’s going to be held accountable and blamed by the voters,” he said.

No arrests have been made in any of the weekend murders.