Police shifts shifted to combat summertime crime

July 22, 2010 8:11:22 PM PDT
Changes will be coming to the Philadelphia Police Department to combat an increase in crime this summer.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey announced a new strategy that will change the shift times of many of the rank-and-file so that more officers will be on the street overnight, especially in neighborhoods where violent crime is surging.

Saturday night's murder of 27-year old Jesus Santos-Ramos, known as Pito, is one case symbolizing the spike in violence forcing the police brass to put more cops on the street overnight, when most of the violence takes place.

Philadelphia has had 172 homicides so far this year, up from 158 at the same time last year.

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Non-fatal shootings are on the rise, too, with more than 900 this year compared to fewer than 800 last year.

Police say violent crime is still down five percent, but halfway through this summer of smothering heat, Commissioner Ramsey has started moving the start times of some officers by four hours, beefing up patrols from 8:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.

"This is a peak period of time for us and also a peak period for vacations, so I don't want anything that dilutes our strength," Ramsey said.

The commissioner says the new flexibility he has thanks to arbitration is valuable as he copes with a more than $6 million cut in the overtime budget. Manpower is short anyway after two police academy classes were canceled.

The reassigned troops will be traveling through hot spots all across town, hoping the show of force will have a positive impact on the mean streets.

"It's making stops of people who are known to be involved in crime. It's increasing the number of warrants served, not only drug warrants but arrest warrants. It's additional foot patrols in the problem areas," said Ramsey.

In the meantime, fear grips neighborhoods like Pit's.

Victor Colon says the police are not aggressive enough. He stays off the streets after sundown.

"I basically stay inside," said Colon. "So I won't be part of the problem, or have part of the problem come to me."

The shift-change strategy will continue through early October.