'Murder and Mayhem' Decline on Streets of Philadelphia

Three hundred and ninety-two people were murdered on the streets of Philadelphia last year. So ever since Charles Ramsey was sworn in as the city's police commissioner in January, he and Mayor Michael Nutter have been on a mission to dramatically cut the city's murder and crime rate.

Improved surveillance cameras on the streets are part of the strategy. There are 31 cameras scanning Philadelphia streets so far, with a warning to law-abiding citizens and criminals alike: be ready for your close-up.

"What it does is it gives you a record," Ramsey told ABC News' "Nightline" recently. "You may not see it live when it's going on, because the more cameras you get, it's difficult to monitor them all at one time, but it does give you a record of what took place."

The city of about 1.4 million people will eventually have 250 cameras, intended to assist police officers like Michael Vargas and Dominic Mathis, who patrol some of the toughest neighborhoods.

"I know of a couple robbery jobs that, based on the information from the camera, the person was apprehended fairly quickly," Mathis said.

The cameras are sometimes more reactive than proactive. In the case of a recent shooting on South Salford Street, police made one arrest right away and two more in the following weeks, but one suspect remains at large. It's the kind of action Nutter promised the people of Philadelphia when he was elected mayor last year.

Nutter, 51, took office with all the pomp and ceremony befitting the leader of the nation's sixth largest city. The native Philadelphian won in a landslide, took the oath of office and made a bold declaration.

"This is our city and we're taking it back," he said in his inauguration speech. "Ten years ago, New York City had over 2,200 homicides. But last year they had 494. There is no reason in the world why this city should not set its sights on attaining those kinds of goals over the next three to five years, that we will cut our homicide rate by 30 [percent] to 50 percent. No reason at all. None."

Last year's 392 murders were down 3.4 percent from 406 in 2006.

Nutter is a Wharton Business School graduate who served nearly 15 years in the Philadelphia City Council before running for the top spot in the city he loves. Smart and affable, he's a baby boomer who's distinctly "old school" -- he delighted guests at his inaugural party by taking the stage for a performance of the song "Rapper's Delight." But popular culture and popularity aside, he's strictly business when it comes to running the city.

No More 'Murder and Mayhem'

"The small minority of folks who are running around creating murder and mayhem and stuff, I'm putting them on notice today," Nutter said. "We know who you are, we know what you're up to -- I'm not messing around."

Nutter predicts that the crime rate in so-called "Killadelphia" will decline drastically "over some extended period of time." During an interview with "Nightline" in his office just after the inauguration, the new mayor said, "Look, public service is not for the faint of heart. And if you don't set goals, if you don't set the standards high, you'll never know what it is that you can do. But again, I'm not doing this by myself."

Ramsey, Nutter's partner against crime, previously held the job of police chief in Washington, D.C., where he was appointed in 1998. The crime rate was down 40 percent by the time he left in 2006, after which he came out of retirement to take the job in Philadelphia.

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