Philadelphia had a bad year for homicides in 2021 — the worst in the city's history, in fact, by a pretty significant margin. Philadelphia residents endured 562 murders in 2021, shattering the previous record of 500, set in 1990. The escalation of the city's murder rate has been drastic in the last two years; in 2019, for example, there were only 356 murders recorded in Philadelphia, but that number shot up to 499 in 2020, and then went up again in 2021.
If the first few hours of 2022 are any indication, things are not heading in the right direction. The new year is not yet 24 hours old, but already 14 people have been shot in Philadelphia, two of them fatally. According to WPVI-TV, Philadelphia residents endured a chaotic night peppered with numerous shooting incidents that left multiple victims injured.
Emily DeCarlo of the Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia told WCAU-TV that the violence of the past year has traumatized Philadelphia residents. "The whole city of Philadelphia, I would say, is likely to be traumatized from this year -- the pandemic, the gun violence, all of it," DeCarlo said.
Philadelphia's Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney has responded to the crisis by calling for Philadelphia to "have the ability to set its own gun laws," and supporting reforms that would improve Philadelphia neighborhoods. Notably, last year, Kenney responded to pressure from "defund the police activists" by cutting a proposed $19 million increase from Philadelphia city police budgets. While he has positioned himself as an opponent of the "defund the police" movement, he has pushed for many of the "police reforms" supported by progressive activists.
Philadelphia was one of more than at least a dozen major American cities that set homicide records in 2021. Violent crime, which had been slowly and steadily retreating in the United States since the early 1990s, saw dramatic and unprecedented increases in many American cities in 2020 and 2021 as the country grappled with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest roiled the country in the wake of high-profile officer-involved deaths that captured national headlines in the summer of 2020.