PHILADELPHIA — There was a time - say, three years ago - when Philadelphia was "Killadelphia," and many people seemed to think the city was about as safe a place to walk around as a lion's den at feeding time.
While acknowledging that the city is still far from a utopia, Mayor Nutter, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey and other officials joined yesterday to laud a 10 percent across-the-board drop in violent crime in 2009.
Oversized color charts, situated inside North Philadelphia's 22nd District's roll-call room, bore the fruits of a year of progress: Homicides fell 8.4 percent, from 333 in 2008 to 305 last year; aggravated assaults fell 10.2 percent from 9,350 to 8,398; rapes dropped 13.2 percent, from 1,105 to 957, and robberies were down 6.5 percent, 9,343 to 8,738.
Police statistics also showed decreases in burglaries, 15.6 percent; theft, 6.5 percent; vehicle theft, 23 percent; and property crime, 10.7 percent.
"We'll celebrate that for a second," Nutter said, glancing around the room. "The second is over. We still have a lot of work to do."
Nutter recalled the climate of the city when he was elected mayor in 2007 - a time, he said, when "violent crime was the number-one issue."
Since then, the city's homicide rate has fallen 22 percent. Nutter noted that he vowed, upon election, to cut the city's murder rate by 30 to 50 percent within three to five years.
Ramsey cited other successes, including a 75 percent clearance rate of homicide cases. The national clearance-rate average, he said, is 62 percent; in 2007, the Police Department's clearance rate was 58 percent.
Ramsey said the department would focus this year on tackling violent gangs, getting illegal firearms off the streets and improving police presence on the street.
One category that he said he was dissatisfied with was the number of domestic murders, which spiked to 36 last year, from 23 in 2008.