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But first, an average of one person a day is murdered in Philadelphia; shootings of police officers are on the rise. When the newly elected mayor takes office in January, he hopes to employ more aggressive policing with a tactic that's been dubbed, stop and frisk.
From member station WHYY in Philadelphia, Susan Phillips reports.
SUSAN PHILLIPS: Philadelphia is a city on edge, and Mayor-elect Michael Nutter won in part because he was the only candidate to push for an increase of pedestrian and car stops to rid the streets of illegal guns. Police do not need warrants, they need reasonable suspicion to stop a person. And if they feel the person is a threat, they can frisk them; If they feel a weapon, they can search them.
Mayor-elect MICHAEL NUTTER (Democrat, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania): What people should be thinking about is stop, think, don't carry. If you don't have a weapon on you, you don't have anything to worry about, and will lower the incidents of violence in the city.
PHILLIPS: Mayor-elect Nutter says he'll hire 500 new police officers to carry out the stops. Stop and frisk is not new, it's a tactic already employed by the police every day in cities and towns across the country, but Philadelphia police are often responding to 911 calls and have little time to stop people they suspect could be engaged in criminal activity.
Mr. JOSEPH LUCE(ph) (Police Officer, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania): Now we're at 7th and Sasquahanna(ph) right now, and look around you, it's nothing but vacant houses and lots and trash strewn on the lots.
PHILLIPS: Philadelphia Police Officers Joseph Luce and Andy Chan(ph) are part of the only squad that works fulltime conducting regular stops in high-crime areas of the city.
Mr. LUCE: Lots of people in the corners watching the people that watch us. Now, if you look to your left, see the four black males sitting on the steps of that business that's closed up? Basically, they're loitering on that business; they can be stopped under our laws that we already have on the books. What's the purpose of sitting on that business right there, right at that point? Why not hang out in a safer spot unless you're doing something already that you're probably not supposed to be doing.
PHILLIPS: That behavior alone is enough to get these guys stopped, but this time, the police move on.
Nineteen-year-old Evert McColla(ph) says he knows what it's like to be stopped and frisked. One day this summer, he was pushing his 6-month-old baby in a stroller down a street in the heart of North Philadelphia when he claims the police stopped him and frisked him for a gun.
Mr. EVERT McCOLLA: They was told on the radio that I had a gun and I fit the description. I showed them my ID and everything. I was kind of upset - I was really upset about that because it was, like, that's harassment all day long.
PHILLIPS: McColla says he's known to police as a drug dealer and a gang member, but that he's put that life behind him. Still, he says they know his face and often stop him.
Velverly Johnson(ph) lives just a few blocks away from where Evert McColla was stopped.
Ms. VELVERLY JOHNSON: And all these young boys and young girls are my hit because he said he going to stop and frisk, but I want him to stop and frisk even if they're walking down - they don't have to be in a car. Even if they're walking down the streets, stop and frisk them because all of them carry guns. Yes, stop and frisk.
PHILLIPS: Johnson's nephew was shot to death last year, and on her block of North Bansal Street(ph), seven houses have lost members to gun violence. Johnson is not alone in her support for stop and frisk: A recent poll shows 65 percent of Philadelphians favor the practice. But there is some concern among African-Americans who lived through a time in the 1970s when community relationships with the police were tense.
Adrienne Hill(ph) teaches at the VIP Day Care Center - not far from where McColla was frisked.
Ms. ADRIENNE HILL (teacher, VIP Day Care Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania): I feel, though, in some ways it's invasion of your privacy, but it's also an act of trying to keep us safe with so many things that's going on these days. So I would have to say I'm for it. I don't see - if you're not guilty of anything, that you have anything - nothing to hide, it shouldn't bother you. Whatever is going to keep us safe - I think we should all be for it instead of against it.
PHILLIPS: Philadelphia has few options when it comes to cracking down on illegal guns. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell made an unusual appearance at the state capital this week, pleading with Pennsylvania lawmakers to allow Philadelphia to pass its own gun laws and to limit purchases in the state to one gun a month, but the two bills did not even make it out of committee.
For NPR News, I'm Susan Phillips in Philadelphia.
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