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SEPTA serious crimes down 45%, mirroring national trend


(The Center Square) — Philadelphia residents have had to suffer more criminal activity in recent years, but the tide may be turning.

Though some violent crime rates are still higher than before the pandemic, public transit is getting safer.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority announced that serious crimes have dropped by 45% over a three-month period compared to a year ago, a welcome relief to riders increasingly nervous about the unpredictability of Philadelphia’s buses and trains.

“While we still have challenges, I am encouraged by our progress,” SEPTA Transit Police Chief Charles Lawson said in a press release. “We have stepped up enforcement of quality-of-life offenses, including fare evasion, drug use, and smoking, which are often the subject of customer complaints and can be associated with more serious offenses.”

SEPTA registered 24 aggravated assaults in the first quarter of 2024 (compared to 32 a year ago) and 34 robberies (102 a year ago). Unspecified thefts also fell from 130 to 76, as did indecent exposures (from 17 to 8) and indecent touching (from 7 to 2).

However, the transit system also had three homicides and two rapes, up from one incident each a year ago.

“The same gun violence that is plaguing the communities SEPTA serves is spilling over into the system,” the press release noted. “SEPTA remains committed to combating gun violence, and Transit Police are targeting illegal gun possession.”

SEPTA has hired more security officers in recent months to address safety concerns and has also received more funding from state and federal sources. The system’s crime drop has mirrored what’s happening in the city more broadly.

So far in 2024, Philadelphia has had 81 murders — a 34% drop compared to 2023. If the trend continues, the city will have its lowest number of homicides since 2018 when 353 people were killed. Philadelphia’s murder rate peaked in 2021 with 562 murders.

The crime decline is happening in dozens of cities nationwide, where almost 200 have seen murder drops of 20% in the first quarter of 2024.