Crime and safety are two important issues in urban areas. Crime is any unlawful act against a person or property. Safety is the set of measures put in place to make us feel like we are not at risk of being in danger. In other words, crime focuses on actions, and safety focuses on feelings. Both are equally important and must be the main priority for Philadelphia’s next mayor. The risk of being a crime victim must decrease, and the feeling of safety in our neighborhoods must be restored.
Safety as defined above is a human right. It includes the right to walk around our neighborhoods at night without feeling on edge, or the ability to go to work early in the morning without much risk of being assaulted or robbed. Yet, I constantly hear from friends, coworkers and neighbors that they do not feel safe in the neighborhoods they have lived in for years. While it is true that some highly anxious people feel unsafe regardless of the level of crime in their community, it is undeniable that crime is out of control in Philadelphia. DrexelALERT, the university’s crime alert system, always seems to be alerting us of a crime happening near Market Street.
In 2013 there were 246 homicides in the city of Philadelphia. This number has steadily increased each year since then, with a sharp increase during the pandemic. In 2022, there were 516 homicides. In just ten years the number of homicides has doubled. Car thefts and bike thefts have also seen sharp increases in the past couple of years. The killer of Everett Beauregard has still not been caught and it has been over a year since his murder near Drexel’s campus. All of this is completely unacceptable.
Some citizens have responded to the crime wave by purchasing firearms. Unfortunately, research shows that a firearm in the home is more likely to be used in domestic violence than in self-defense. The fear many citizens are currently experiencing has led them to make decisions that may actually make them and their families less safe, especially without education on firearm storage methods. This year, there have been at least 117 deaths nationally due to unintentional shootings by children according to the gun violence prevention organization Everytown for Gun Safety. This is a direct violation of our right to safety in our home and community.
Crime is of course a complex issue that can vary from one street to the next. Even so, the complexity of an issue does not mean elected officials get a free pass to make excuses for why said issue has gotten out of hand. Elected officials need to understand they must also get smart, not just tough, on crime. Both mayoral candidates have proposed increasing the number of police in the city, but due to the history of police misuse of force towards African Americans it is important that more training be a component of future safety budgets in the city. Police should be viewed as a sign of safety, not a gang to be feared by the community. Increasing the number of police officers on the street will not mean anything without proper training. The quality of a police force can matter just as much as its size.
Finally, the drug epidemic in the city must be addressed swiftly and forcefully. It is impossible for people to feel safe when they get onto a SEPTA route and see someone shoving a needle into their arm. This general sense of unease lingers as people go about their day and creates anxiety that danger may be close. No one wants to live in that environment if they do not have to, and most addicts do not want to be addicted to drugs. This is an issue that can be solved, but like quality law enforcement, it needs to be a priority. Philadelphia is an incredible city with immense potential. Crime and safety are often among the top issues people think about when choosing to move to another city. Hence, for Philadelphia to truly grow and thrive, the city must first be a safe place to work and raise a family. If Philadelphia continues on its current path, it may face greater hardships down the road in the form of economic troubles and a decreasing population.