Disagreements over how to handle Reading's rising murder rate

READING, Pa. (WPVI) -- The homicide rate for the year in Reading, Pa. has already doubled that of last year, and community members want something done.

City and Berks County leaders agree the problem stems from gangs and drugs, but the disagreement is over what to do about it.

It was last Wednesday when a triple shooting on Moss Street brought the homicide total to 21 for the city this year.

That's up from just nine murders in 2017.

Reading has a population of 88,000. Philadelphia's population of 1.6 million and 333 murders gives both cities a comparable homicide rate.

Berks County District Attorney John Adams says part of the blame goes to the mayor who, by statute, can hire dozens of more police officers that are currently on the force.

"I'm just not certain the administration is making this a priority. Community safety is at the heart over whether the city can thrive and become the vibrant city it once was," he said.

By Mayor Wally Scott says Adams is oversimplifying the problem.

"I don't want to hear somebody in public office, especially the D.A., talking like a politician and giving a one-liner, 'you need more police.' Oh wow, the whole world needs more police," Scott said.

Mayor Scott says street cameras and programs to stem the opioid epidemic are more efficient ways of dealing with violent crime.

Scott also said Reading's problems could improve if more people accepted God.

Adams said that's a personal issue, while solving crime is a public policy issue.

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