How Philadelphia Police Are Cutting Gun Violence

Officers are collecting and disseminating intelligence more quickly in crime-plagued neighborhoods. Shootings are down six percent this year, and violent crime overall also is dropping.

In Philadelphia, a city with more than 1,000 shootings a year, shootings are down six percent this year and violent crime overall is dropping. says police tactics are changing. Before an officer stepped out of his car to investigate a recent shooting, a team of officers in a room five miles away already was working the case, remotely scanning for surveillance cameras in the neighborhood and diving into databases to find potential leads about the victim and who might have had reason to target him.

In minutes, that intelligence bureau’s handiwork landed in the officer’s email inbox, easily accessible from his phone. It’s part of a new effort that the department says reflects its continued attempt to drill down on blocks plagued by gun violence.

In recent weeks, the Inquirer and Daily News shadowed investigators in Southwest Philadelphia from crime scenes to hospital rooms and to the intelligence bureau. Along with interviews of beat cops, district commanders, and police brass, the newspapers took a close look at the police department’s strategies for combating gun violence and the challenges that remain in one of the nation’s most violent cities.

“We are not declaring success here,” said one deputy commissioner, Joseph Sullivan. “We just feel we’re moving in the right direction.”