If there is one statistic that Philadelphia is least proud of and most in need of changing, it is the murder rate—the highest among the nation’s 10 largest cities. The murder rate peaked in 1990 at 503, at a rate of 31.5 murders per 100,000 residents. There was an average of about 400 murders a year for most of the 1990s; the number dropped to 288 in 2002, but is on the rise again. Violent and property crime has grown at a rate that exceeds the national average.
Criminologists blame the high rate on many social and economic problems including unemployment, gang activity, increased illegal gun trafficking, reductions in youth programs, poverty, and single-parent households. While it is impossible to pinpoint the cause or predict the future, it is a dire situation in some parts of the city, and we can only hope that this trend will change soon. Many residents are hopeful that new stricter policies and crime-fighting tactics planned for the mayoral administration of Michael Nutter will bring positive change.
It would be remiss to say that tourists are completely safe from the violence that plagues some parts of Philadelphia, but it also must be noted that the vast majority of these crimes, especially murders, are taking place in areas most visitors and many locals never visit. While infrequent murders have taken place in practically every area of the city, most are in economically downtrodden pockets of North, Southwest, and West Philadelphia. Many of the crimes involve drugs and many innocent people that live in drug-infested areas have fallen victim.
The most likely crimes that people outside of these areas encounter are muggings, purse snatchings, and car theft, which happen mostly at night in desolate areas. You should always exercise caution and be alert to your surroundings, especially when leaving bars, clubs, and parking garages. When in doubt, always take a cab to your destination. If you don’t feel safe, get to a well-lit, populated area or step inside the nearest business and wait for a cab. Trust your instincts and travel in groups whenever possible at night.
© Karrie Gavin from Moon Philadelphia, 1st Edition