Declaring that “preventing violence is not just about law enforcement, but also about improving the health and well-being of every resident,” Mayor Kenney today called on his Cabinet and senior leadership to develop a plan, within 100 days, for how to dramatically reduce the killings and shootings in Philadelphia.
“This plan will take a new approach, markedly different than initiatives that primarily rely on policing,” said the Mayor. “It will look at violence through the lens of public health. It will examine the causes of violence in our neighborhoods and rely on data and science to help identify the most effective strategies to address these issues. Most importantly, the plan will focus on violence as a symptom of the larger crisis of pervasive poverty in Philadelphia.”
“Using a public health approach, this plan will map out a more robust and comprehensive response to violence that focuses on prevention, as well as enforcement and reentry. We must get away from the mindset that policing is the only answer,” said the Mayor. “Our children must be able to walk to school without fear. Our parents and grandparents must be able to rest easy at night. Our government must keep our residents safe.”
The plan will, among other areas, examine how workforce and social service initiatives can play a role in reducing violence and creating more opportunity in neighborhoods across the city. It is due to be received by the Mayor on or before January 5, 2019. In the interim, the Mayor vowed to conduct visits to the Philadelphia communities most impacted by violence, in order to “understand what our residents are seeing, hearing and experiencing daily.”
The Mayor announced the plan at the Philadelphia Anti-Violence/Anti-Drug Network. He was joined by Council President Darrell Clarke, 2nd District Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and 4th District Councilman Curtis Jones.
“We know that violence is contagious, cannot be geographically contained, and requires early intervention – because discriminatory residential segregation, disinvestment in low-income communities, and mass incarceration only lead to more violence,” Council President Darrell L. Clarke said. “I support this call to action by Mayor Kenney, because we need a comprehensive, cross-disciplinary approach to what is ultimately a public health crisis. That must include more focus on the health, safety, and well-being of children, which is why community schools programming was so urgently needed here – and if anything, should be scaled up and expanded. I look forward to reviewing the Administration’s plan 100 days from now.”
Overseeing development of the plan will be Vanessa Garrett Harley, appointed earlier this year as Deputy Managing Director for Criminal Justice and Public Safety. Garrett Harley previously chaired the Social Services Group in the Law Department that oversaw, among other areas, the Child Welfare Unit. In that capacity, she battled for the rights of children whose lives were often torn apart by violence.
“I take seriously the Mayor’s call for action and will work with my team to put together – and most importantly execute – a comprehensive plan for violence prevention, enforcement and reentry,” said Deputy Managing Director Vanessa Garrett Harley. “I will call on the resources and expertise of our partners both within the government, the faith-based community and in the larger community of those affected on a daily basis by pervasive violence. We want to engage all Philadelphians in this effort. The plan will also look at how workforce and social service initiatives can also play a role in stemming violence and providing communities with opportunity.”
In leading the plan, Garrett Harley will coordinate with the Office of Violence Prevention, the Police Department, the Department of Public Health, the Department of Human Services, and many other City departments and agencies. She will engage with City Council’s Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention, with criminal justice stakeholders, and most importantly, with members of the community who are confronting this issue every day.
Assisting Garrett Harley in the development of the plan will be Theron Pride, who was named earlier this year to the newly-created position of Senior Director of Violence Prevention Strategies and Programs. Pride, a national expert on violence prevention work and strategies, previously served in the Obama administration in the Office of Justice Programs at the Department of Justice. In that capacity, he led several large-scale initiatives focused on reducing youth violence, including the National Forum of Youth Violence Prevention in which the City of Philadelphia participated.
Those interested in learning more and getting involved in this process should contact the Office of Violence Prevention at (215) 686-0789.
To download the Department of Public Health’s Cost of Gun Violence info-graphic, click here.