When you arrive at the Thanksgiving table later this week, we’d offer this item worthy of your gratitude: the homicide rate in Philadelphia has dropped significantly this month.
That observation remains true even when accounting for the fact that the homicide rate is usually higher in warmer months and lower in cooler months.
For example, Broad + Liberty’s homicide tracker had 32 entries in January and 40 entries for February.
In November, however, we’ve only had to make nine entries into the tracker, a remarkable drop.
Put another way, from January through October, Philly has been averaging about eight homicides a week, slightly more than one homicide a day. Through twenty days of November, however, the city has averaged three homicides per week — closer to one homicide every other day.
The upshot is that for the last three weeks, the lower rate means about fifteen more Philadelphians will be alive this Thanksgiving.
Or consider that after August witnessed 49 entries were placed into the homicide tracker, September and October then had 32 and 30 entries respectively — the lowest total for any two consecutive months for 2023.
Perhaps this is an anomaly. No matter the reason or circumstance, we’ll take it.
If there’s something driving the shift, the only thing we can think of is that changes at the top of the city’s leadership — some complete and some impending — are already having an effect on policing.
Cherelle Parker’s victory in May and the subsequent solidification of that win in November, signaled an incoming mayoral administration that aims to be tougher on crime than Jim Kenney, whose surrender grew more apparent with every crisis.
Kenney’s hand-picked police commissioner, Danielle Outlaw, knew the score and left her post for less controversial pastures with a port authority in early September.
Our theory is that these two factors allowed Philly’s homegrown police leadership to get back to basics.
For the entire year, Philly’s crime statistics page says homicides are down about twenty percent from last year, from 464 in 2023 to 372 right now.
The skeptic will say PPD is hiding some homicides — counting them as “suspicious” deaths or “found bodies.”
In some notorious examples, police departments certainly have unethically tinkered with the homicide rate.
Our response would be that even if a police department as large as Philadelphia’s might be able to hide one or two homicides per month from the city’s tally per month, doing so on a much larger scale would be far more difficult.
Additionally, keeping an eye on such statistical hijinks is why Broad + Liberty set up its homicide tracker earlier this year. We hoped it would allow our sources in PPD to alert us to any instance that might be questionable as to how PPD’s administration was counting a body.
The city still has a long way to go before the homicide rate gets back to 2013 and 2014 levels, years in which the annual homicide tally didn’t cross 250.
But for now, we’re thankful for this respite, and that the rate is headed in the right direction.
Broad + Liberty is a nonprofit media endeavor dedicated to sharing voices and stories that are shut out of other media outlets. @BroadAndLiberty