READING, Pa. (WPVI) -- The city of Reading recorded 21 homicides last year, the highest homicide rate since 2005.
That's why local authorities have launched a crime-fighting initiative that centers on law enforcement accountability, maximizing law enforcement, community resources and citizen engagement.
Local leaders say the plan is designed to strike a balance with the fact that the number of police officers has declined in recent years due to Reading's inclusion into Pennsylvania's Financially Distressed Cities Program.
Berks County DA John Adams says the city will do its part, but things will not improve without support from the people of Reading.
"We need people to get back their neighborhoods and to really work at making sure that it's an environment where all of us would want our kids to grow up," Adams said.
The good news is that the new initiatives appear to be working. There have only been three reported homicides so far, and burglaries are down dramatically compared to this time last year.
We asked some people walking along Penn Street if they think Reading is a decent place to live.
Some said yes.
Nate Rivera of Reading told us, "I think it's a safe city. I believe what we have to do is the government has to put a real action plan together, but overall I think it's a safe city."
But many others said this city needs help.
For example, life-long resident Deanna Nellinger said, "You used to be able to send you kids to the store, walk down the street, and not worry about someone hitting your child and driving off or your child getting hit by a stray bullet."
To put things into perspective, Reading has averaged approximately 12 homicides annually since 2007.
Local officials say they will not be certain how effective their initiatives really are until the end of summer. Crime rates historically tend to spike during the warm weather months.
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