There is a common problem across our commonwealth and even our nation with some professions facing a shortage of workers – teachers and nurses being two of whom we hear a great deal about in the Legislature. What gets less attention and is more alarming is the police shortage, particularly in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Police Department currently has 1,500 vacancies, and they need our help to address this growing problem, especially considering the dire straits the city is in.

Criminals have been empowered to rule the streets by a district attorney who refuses to prosecute and who releases perpetrators right back into the community immediately after arrest. It is no wonder the police department is struggling to recruit new officers. Who wants to risk their lives for crimes that will just be thrown out by a DA who favors lawlessness?

We cannot turn a blind eye to crimes, and we cannot turn a blind eye to the men and women who have stepped up to do the job, but who need more boots on the ground. And those of us who don’t live in Philadelphia cannot turn a blind eye to the city and say, “not my problem.”

This is a Pennsylvania problem. A healthy, strong Philadelphia means a healthy, strong Pennsylvania. Philadelphia is the prime driver of the Pennsylvania economy.

Additionally, parents are hesitant to send their children to Philadelphia-based universities, which impacts those schools, the city and our future workforce. Businesses are leaving or not locating in the city, which decreases tax revenue and limits the attractions for tourists. At the same time, tourists simply don’t want to come because they don’t feel safe due to open drug markets and violent crime, including high rates of homicide.

The city’s Office of the Controller has a website with up-to-date mapping of “Philadelphia’s Gun Violence Crisis.” According to that site, as of June 11, 2024, there have been 120 homicides in Philadelphia, not to mention the 410 in 2023 and the 514 in 2022. So far there have been 468 shooting victims this year with 106 of those being fatal.

Those on the other side of the aisle will cry “gun control” in response to those numbers. I will remind them that the overwhelming majority of crimes involving a firearm are committed using an illegally obtained gun. Criminals do not care about gun laws, just as they do not care about taking another person’s life.

All this greatly impacts the local and state economy.

It also impacts Philadelphia’s border counties and beyond. Criminals don’t stop at the city limits. So, those communities in Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware and Chester counties are also feeling the impact – be it economically or by police officers encountering criminals during vehicle stops, if the person even stops and doesn’t simply flee and drive recklessly through suburban neighborhoods.

What those border counties do have though, is the ability to pay their officers well – starting at over $90,000, not including overtime, compared to Philadelphia’s average starting salary of $62,0000. This is much less money for a much more difficult, dangerous, and demanding job.

I am not disparaging the officers in those other counties. I am calling out the fact that Philadelphia must take drastic steps to improve safety and security to change how people view the city, and that starts with hiring, paying, supporting and retaining police officers. A once proud department is depleted and crest fallen from a morale perspective.

I look forward to working across the aisle in a bipartisan manner to develop solutions that will help this ailing city.  We need to bring the Philadelphia Police Department back to full complement and pay these brave souls a competitive salary and prosecute those who attempt to destroy the grand “City of Brotherly Love.” Then and only then, will she be restored.

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