How does Philadelphia compare to other American cities when it comes to crime and criminal justice? This is the question we set out to answer, with Eagles all-pro safety Malcolm Jenkins, a criminal justice activist. The categories we include in our weekly chart are by no means comprehensive; they contain the data we are able to compare across jurisdictions. When possible, we compare city to city. Courts and jails usually fall under county jurisdiction, in which case we compare Philadelphia County—which has the same borders as the city—with the county that contains the city the Eagles are playing—like Cook County, for Chicago. The chart is meant to create an overall sense of how cities treat crime and justice issues, as a way of learning about and solving the problem here at home.
Homicides per 1,000 residents: This refers to the number of murders as reported by local police to the FBI. We’re using the latest available FBI stats, which are for 2015. Data via Neighborhood Scouts.
Violent crime per 1,000 residents: This refers to the number of violent crimes as defined by the FBI, which includes murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. We’re using the latest available FBI stats, which are for 2015. Data via Neighborhood Scouts.
Marijuana decriminalization: One way to reduce the number of people incarcerated is to reduce the number of nonviolent offenses for which they are arrested. To this end, several cities and states around the country have “decriminalized” the possession of small amounts of marijuana, making it an offense on par with a minor traffic violation. Philadelphia is one such city. Seattle, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland are all in states that have legalized recreational use of marijuana. A full list of marijuana laws by state is here.
Police involved shootings: This is the number of times police officers fired their weapons, whether or not they shot an individual. Each jurisdiction, either city or county, reports this information annually. All data for 2016, except for New York City, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., for which 2015 is the latest year available.
People in jail per 100,000 residents: There is much we can gather from the number of people incarcerated in a city, including crime rate, number of diversion programs and efficiency of the court system. The data here is based on a one-day population in the county, for the most recent date available.
% police of color / % population of color: How does the makeup of a city’s police department reflect the city it’s policing? The police department data comes from a study by Governing magazine. Population rate comes from Census data. The city whose number most closely approaches 1 is the “winner” of the category.
People incarcerated pre-trial per 100,000 residents: There is a lot of talk nationally about bail reform—specifically, reducing or eliminating cash bail, which disproportionately affects poor people. Suspects who cannot afford bail, even for nonviolent infractions, can sit in jail for months awaiting trial, often losing jobs, or children in the process. Data by county, as reported by the county departments of corrections.
# juveniles sentenced to life without parole: The Supreme Court in 2012 made it unconstitutional to sentence a juvenile offender to die in prison. In 2016, the Court made that decision retroactive, making the 2,500 inmates serving time since their youth eligible for a parole hearing. This number, compiled by The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, is county data for the number of juveniles sentenced to life without parole prior to 2012. It does not reflect those who may have died in prison, or been released since 2016.