Number of children murdered in Philadelphia is ‘unprecedented,’ says acting police commissioner

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — On Thursday, Philadelphia police announced they are now investigating the death of a 2-year-old boy as a homicide. The toddler was found by officers on Tuesday unresponsive and bleeding.

The boy is just one of many children who have become the recent victims of violence — mainly, gun violence — in Philadelphia. Just in recent weeks, seven children have been murdered, and one was critically injured.

Last month, an 11-month-old boy was shot four times while in the car with his father and others. Police believe the intended target was someone inside the car, all due to a drug dispute. The following day, bullets were fired into a Kensington home, and a 2-year-old girl was shot six times. Her mother was holding her.

Acting Police Commissioner Christine Coulter said she’s never seen anything like this onslaught of violence against children before. 

“When you hear over and over again of abuse or murder at the hands of people charged with caring for them, it’s just so hard to explain,” she said. “I just can’t fathom — children are so precious, and people would take their lives. And obviously, defenseless children. Two-year-old couldn’t possibly do anything to warrant anybody harming them.”

Coulter said the heightened violence against children is an unprecedented pattern.

“The toll that it’s taking on communities — I mean, even if it didn’t happen on your block, people  are sitting in their living room watching that this has happened to another child. The toll that it’s taking on responding police officers who are going to houses every day and dealing with tragedies.”

In response, the department has made behavioral health experts available to officers, who can help them deal with responding to such morbid incidents.

“We have a lot of seasoned veterans who have handled a lot, but we also have a lot of young officers where the first graphic scene that they’ve responded to may have been the death of a child,” she added. “We want to make sure that they’re not carrying any extra baggage into the next job they go into.”

Coulter urges neighbors to call 911 if they see anything they believe wrong is happening on their block.

“If you hear something or have a feeling that something’s wrong, trust those feelings. Let someone at least investigate, because it’s all of our responsibility to protect all of our children.”