Taking charge as the city’s new mayor, Michael Nutter declared a “crime emergency” and set ambitious goals Monday to lower the homicide rate, boost the number of high school graduates and build a better-educated work force.
“People who have confidence in the future make big plans,” Nutter, a Democrat, said in his inaugural speech at the Academy of Music. “This is the new Philadelphia.”
Expectations are high for Nutter, who was sworn in as the city’s 98th mayor.
His first executive order, signed shortly after he took the oath of office, declared a “crime emergency.” Noting there was an average of five shootings a day in the city last year, the order gives newly sworn-in Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey until Jan. 30 to develop a plan to combat the problem.
“To the law-abiding citizens of Philadelphia, I say that we are the great majority. To the law breakers, you are in the small minority,” he said, bringing the crowd at the historic Academy of Music to its feet.
“This is our city and we are taking it back: every day, every block, every neighborhood, everywhere in Philadelphia,” said Nutter, 50. “I’ve had enough and I’m not playing around about it.”
Nutter called on Philadelphia’s more than 1.4 million residents to help end the wave of mostly gun crime that led to 392 killings last year — a higher homicide rate than in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Citing a significant reduction in New York City’s homicide rate over the past decade, Nutter said there was no reason that Philadelphia couldn’t reduce its rate by 30 percent to 50 percent within three to five years.
Nutter called for more police to patrol neighborhoods by foot or bicycle to build trust in the communities. He also suggested putting ex-offenders to work by giving tax credits to businesses that hire them.
Nutter advocates controversial “stop, question and frisk” searches to fight crime in violent neighborhoods.
The tactic is supported by Ramsey, but some worry that it violates civil liberties and will erode trust between residents and police.
On education, Nutter said he wants to cut the high school dropout rate — now 45 percent — in half.
Only 18 percent of residents have bachelor’s degrees, and Nutter said he wants to double that rate in five to seven years with help from the business and education communities.
“The goal is an economic imperative. It is an educational imperative. It is a moral imperative,” he said.
Nutter, who replaced the term-limited John Street, ran as a reformer and sharply criticized what many feel is a deeply entrenched pay-to-play culture at City Hall. The former city councilman defeated Republican Al Taubenberger by a 4-1 ratio in November.