By Noe Herrera and Hannah Adams
PHILADELPHIA, PA – A new national poll suggests there is strong bipartisan support for law enforcement to refocus their attention on the most serious and violent crimes rather than common crimes.
The Safer Cities Poll, conducted by Data for Progress, found 78 percent of likely voters believe “police departments should shift a significant portion of their internal resources to prioritize investigating and solving the most serious offenses like shootings and murder.”
And 76 percent of these likely voters also favored a budgeting process that “[ensures] that police departments are making solving serious crimes like shootings and murders their top priority.”
The demand for refocused efforts comes after the U.S. witnessed its largest decline in the homicide clearance rate, i.e. the number of homicide cases solved, from 55 percent in 2019 to 50 percent in 2020. In Philadelphia, only 29 percent of homicides and 15 percent of non-fatal shootings were solved this year.
Overall, national crime has been declining for decades.
The Safer Cities Poll now shows that 71 percent of its voters favor non-police and unarmed approaches for behavioral health and unhoused-related calls. Programs that deal with behaviors associated with poverty, addiction, and mental health crises in cities like Portland and Oregon show promising results.
Voters also want mayors to be held responsible since they “are the leaders of their cities and often hire and fire police chiefs.”
Philly District Attorney Larry Krasner, an advocate for orienting policing policies towards forensic sciences and investigative training in hopes of solving more homicides and shootings, states that the poll results reflect what the survivors of shootings and attempted-homicides want from the criminal system.
“People who have survived shootings, or who have lost loved ones to gun violence, want most of all for those harms to have never occurred and for their hearts to never have been broken. Short of prevention, what survivors want and frankly deserve is for the individuals responsible for hurting them to be removed from our communities as soon as possible, held accountable by the justice system, and to never inflict harm on another person ever again,” DA Krasner said.
“Philadelphians especially know what they need for their communities to become healthy and strong; they have lived through cycles of heightened violence before. The people want swift and fair accountability for those who commit violent crime, and they also want more resources for behavior health and social services so that police can focus their time and attention where it really belongs,” he added.
City Councilmember Kendra Brooks (At-Large) said: “The results of the recent Safer Cities poll echo what I have been hearing from my neighbors in North Philadelphia for years. Police departments should be allocating their resources toward solving homicides, rather than over-focusing on low-level offenses, which often causes further harm to our communities.
“Real public safety means addressing the root causes of harm and pursuing the conditions necessary for all community members to thrive. The resources are there to solve serious violent crimes. It’s time our police department’s priorities actually reflected the will of the people,” Brooks added.
PA State Rep. Chris Rabb (Phila.) noted, “If our police department isn’t oriented toward substantive crime prevention, nor is it responsible for prosecuting individuals charged with crimes, it seems only fitting that its primary focus should be on solving the spate of violent crimes that worry most residents of Philadelphia.”
“Our communities have been devastated by violence, and the magnitude of the demands for change in policing are unmistakable in the results of this important survey,” said PA Sen. Nikil Saval (Phila.).
“Across political lines, people want to see increased resources go toward community safety programs and public services, and they want their elected representatives to hold police departments accountable for making progress on serious crime. Communities know their needs best, and public officials must prioritize them,” Saval added.