New statistics released by the Philadelphia Police Department show stark increases in nearly all subcategories of property crime, with only one category seeing a year-over-year reduction while all others had double-digit increases, even as much as 40 or even 50 percent.
For example, retail theft jumped up 52 percent, going from 9,371 reported incidents in 2021 up to 14,533 incidents in 2022. It’s an all-time high for that subcategory going back to 2015, according to an analysis of eight years of annual data published by the PPD.
Auto thefts increased 36 percent from 2021 to ‘22. While that year-to-year increase is certainly significant, the longer trend is even more concerning, as auto thefts in 2022 were roughly three times more than the baseline years of 2016-2019. While an upswing in carjackings would contribute to that figure, it would not account for most of the increase in total auto thefts.
In some categories, the increases are coming off historical dips, meaning new highs are not being reached. That’s the case with simple theft, which dipped in 2020 and 2021, but rebounded by almost 20 percent in the last year.
Some decreases were achieved, especially in violent crime, after hitting historic highs in 2021. Homicides — while still over the 500 mark — were down by nine percent. Rapes were down significantly by 22 percent. PPD’s data also showed that shooting incidents and shooting victims were down slightly, four and three percent, respectively.
However, robberies committed with guns were up 20 percent, representing the largest increase of any subcategory in violent crime.
Philadelphia Police did not return a request for comment on the trends.
Carjackings, a subset of auto thefts, have been on a steady rise since 2019. While the PPD data did not provide a breakout of that subset, the department said in December that the city experienced 1,331 carjackings in 2022, compared to 224 in 2019, according to a CBS report.
The carjacking increase is so substantial that Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner recently announced his office would be forming a special prosecution unit for that specific crime.
One more prominent victim of the recent surge in carjackings isU.S. Representative Mary Gay Scanlon, who in December 2021 was carjacked at a Philadelphia park. She was unhurt, and police later captured two suspects in Delaware.
Whether crime in Philadelphia has trickled over into neighboring suburban counties has been a matter of intense debate, especially in the runup to the 2022 election.
Statistics in the collar counties are difficult to come by mainly because of the number of small municipal police departments in the hundreds of boroughs, townships, and cities from Bucks down to Chester counties.
But, last year, Bensalem Public Safety Director William “Bill” McVey told a group of lawmakers his township was seeing an increase in crime thanks to Philadelphia. McVey had no problems naming names.
“This is an ongoing problem with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. The District Attorney’s Office of Philadelphia has also decriminalized retail theft if it’s under $500. This has had a devastating impact not only on Philadelphia, but on all surrounding municipalities,” McVey said at the time “In Bensalem, retail theft is up 29 percent this year, and that’s after Macy’s is closed, Sears is closed, and K-Mart has closed — stores that typically had the most retail thefts in our township.”
Retail theft has left other marks on the city.
Last year, several prominent retailers like Wawa and Starbucks closed Philadelphia stores, oftentimes specifically citing safety concerns.
The new stats from PPD show commercial burglaries increased 40 percent in 2022, still under the recent high set in 2020, but also well over the years of 2015-2019.
Crime is certain to be among the top issues in the upcoming mayoral election. City Councilman David Oh, who has yet to formally announce, has indicated he will campaign on the issue if he runs.
“The results of a policy of ignoring illegal guns, ‘minor’ crimes, illegal drugs & violations of public safety laws by both the Mayor & D.A. is the escalation of violent crimes & reckless driving including homicides, shootings, assaults, carjackings & home invasion robberies,” Oh tweeted in September.
The 2021-2022 comparison data from Philadelphia Police comes with the caveat that the numbers are “preliminary” and that the “crime data is subject to reclassification upon further investigation.”
Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use his encrypted email at email@example.com. @shepherdreports.