Philadelphia mayor criticizes state legislature as city approaches homicide milestone

Philadelphia recorded its 499th homicide in 2021 on Tuesday, with authorities predicting that the number will likely cross 500 before the end of the year, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The murder rate in the city is 13 percent higher than it was at the same time last year, according to official data from the Philadelphia Police Department and, per the Inquirer, 55 percent higher than in 2019. The number of homicides so far this year has also surpassed the totals for 2013 and 2014 combined. 

Philadelphia leaders held a press conference on Wednesday to address the rising gun violence crisis in the city following the death of the most recent victim, Sykea Patton, who was 24 years old. 

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Patton was shot in front of her twin five-year-old children on Friday afternoon.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney described Patton's death as a "cowardly and heartbreaking shooting." 

"I'm personally heartbroken and outraged that we lost 500 Philadelphians, including many of our children and teenagers, to needless violence this year," Kenney said, adding that the ongoing gun violence crisis int he city is deeply "unsettling and painful."

"I never stop thinking about the victims and their families and the incredible loss these senseless deaths leave behind," he said.

The last time the city reached 500 homicides was in 1990, during the crack cocaine epidemic, the Inquirer reported.

On Wednesday, Kenney laid the blame for the rising homicide rate on the number of guns in the city. 

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"The volume of guns that are in circulation in our communities is at a record-high. [Crime guns] join a sea of illegal and legal guns that are accessible in the heat of the moment, turning what could have stayed an argument into a homicide," Kenney said.  

He further pointed to cities like Boston and New York, which reduced gun violence by enacting gun control laws. 

“With every problem, we deal with in our society, whether it’s guns, whether it’s opioids, whether it’s heroin, whatever the issue is, it’s all about greed. There are people making money making these guns, selling these guns, and the legislature — not the people behind me — don’t care. They don’t care how many people get killed. It’s ridiculous," Kenney said on Wednesday.

"Cities like Boston and New York that are not dealing with this problem the way we’re dealing with it? They’re strict on laws in Massachusetts, they’re strict on laws in New York State, and we need to have some semblance of that,” he continued.

Kenney criticized the Republican-controlled state legislature, which he says restricted him from implementing needed gun control measures in Philadelphia.

 “The Pennsylvania General Assembly must allow us to enact reasonable controls on guns in our city. Until this happens, we will continue to work tirelessly in response to the crisis,” he said.

In addition to the 499 homicides, Philadelphia has seen more than 2,000 people shot this year, a 5 percent increase from the same point in 2020, per the Inquirer.