Mayor Kirkland addresses crime spike in Chester

- Mayor Kirkland, of Chester, announced Monday that the city will double its reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in city homicides.

In raising the reward from $5,000 to $10,000, Thaddeus Kirkland pleaded with residents to take advantage of the offer.

“You cannot put a price on the loss of a person's life,” Kirkland told reporters at a news conference at police headquarters, “but you can put a price on a criminal."

Not one person had come forward to swap information for cash in the year-plus that the reward has been set at $5,000.

“My reaction,” said Kirkland, “is kind of sad.”

Bigger rewards are just part of a plan to combat a murder rate that’s sky-high even by Chester standards.

There were 27 homicides in the city last year, a homicide rate roughly four times higher than that of Philadelphia.

This year, there have already been seven killings, putting Chester on pace for 56 for the full year.

City officials are promising to hire more police officers, to beef up a department now about 20% below full staffing.

They want more surveillance cameras in stores and neighborhoods.

And they will work harder to charge the worst criminals in federal court, where sentences are stiffer.

Some residents still argue the raise in money won't matter. 

"Because the city is scared,” explained Chester resident Gerald Irvin.  “I mean, everybody gets shot up.  Nobody is going to come out and step forward."

Combine fear of retribution with a lack of trust in police, and the result is a mindset that says, the cops here are on their own.

"Attitudes have changed," June Duncan told Fox 29's Bruce Gordon. 

She grew up in the city and says, “when I was coming up, we were a little more caring about our neighbors."

Mayor Kirkland is pleading with his city to change that mindset.

"That's an old saying, an old adage, 'snitches get stitches,'” said the mayor.  “No, telling the truth sets you free.  And telling the truth makes the community free."

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