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Murder Is No Mystery: An Analysis of Philadelphia Homicide, 1996-1999

NCJ Number
Joseph P. Tierney; Wendy S. McClanahan; Bill Hangley Jr.
Date Published
48 pages
Based on official Philadelphia police homicide data for the years 1996-99, this report examined who was killing whom and where and why.
From 1996 to 1999, 1,460 people were murdered in Philadelphia. Philadelphia's homicide rate for 1998 (26 homicides for every 100,000 residents) was the fourth highest among major U.S. metropolitan areas. The vast majority of these crimes occurred in the city's poorest neighborhoods. Between 1996 and 1999, 9 out of 10 homicide victims were men, and over half were young men between 18 and 34 years old. Three victims out of four were African-American. Four victims out of five were shot to death with handguns. Virtually all alleged murderers were the same race as their victims, with over 90 percent of African-Americans dying at the hands of another African-American. One killing in four was directly related to drugs, and another quarter were the result of what the police identified as "arguments." Most of the victims and killers probably had histories of violent crime, drug, and weapons arrests. It was possible that as many as half of the murderers were on probation or parole or awaiting trial or sentencing at the time they killed their victims. Arrests were made for nearly two-thirds of these killings, but more than a quarter of all homicides remain "uncleared." Some recommendations are to contain the problem by providing communities better protection from dangerous individuals; preventing the problem by diverting youth from violent patterns before they prove fatal; and making those involved accountable by having public and private organizations charged with maintaining public safety measure and report their performance. 28 notes and extensive tabular and graphic data