Written by: Theron Pride

Homicide by shooting. Double shooting. Triple shooting. These are the police alerts that come across our phones far too often. With each alert, we make sure our crisis workers (also known as credible messengers) for the Community Crisis Intervention Program (CCIP) have responded to these violent incidents to offer assistance, because we know there is at least one more life lost and/or harmed and one more family and community that must deal with the grief, heartbreak and long-lasting trauma that follows.

These almost constant alerts are beyond upsetting and discouraging. They rip your heart out. How can this much violence exist in our city—or in our country—for that matter? No one should have to live under the threat of this violence. But so many Philadelphians live with this every day. This is unacceptable and this is why we have made it our mission to join forces with everyone else in the city to prevent gun violence and bring an end to this madness.

Ending the public health crisis of gun violence takes everyone working together

We know that we cannot end this public health crisis alone. Tragically, gun violence has plagued Philadelphia for decades and the COVID-19 pandemic and recent civil unrest has only exacerbated the conditions in the city that contribute to gun violence. Poverty, racism, unemployment, a lack of education, the wide availability of guns on the street and limited access to positive alternatives to violence all play a major role in maintaining this cycle of senseless killings.

The Office of Violence Prevention does not fund nor control all of the prevention programs the City has invested in to tackle these issues, or direct the City’s efforts related to law enforcement, improving education or revitalizing our local economy.

We are bringing together all the partners critical to solving this epidemic

The Philadelphia Roadmap to Safer Communities is the City’s comprehensive, strategic action plan that uses a public health approach to focus prevention and intervention efforts on the people and places most at risk of gun violence, while also working to address the root causes of the problem.

Integrated into the Roadmap is the Philadelphia Police Department’s (PPD) “Operation Pinpoint” strategy, which takes a “surgical” approach to gun violence reduction by focusing on the problematic people and places, and underlying neighborhood conditions that drive gun violence. As we continue to implement the Roadmap and scale up our efforts—with the help of our partners across City government and in the community—we know that this approach can and will work.

The Roadmap is working to reduce gun violence

In fact, within a short period of time of rolling out the Roadmap in January 2019, we saw a precipitous drop in gun violence in the places law enforcement and City departments and agencies focused on as a result of Operation Pinpoint. Specifically, these “Pinpoint areas” had been experiencing an 89 percent increase in gun violence in January 2019 compared to the previous month, but this upward trend was completely reversed by the summer of 2019 with a peak reduction in gun violence of 20 percent by June 2019.

We also experienced, for the first time since 2016, a much smaller increase in the yearly total number of homicides in 2019 compared to the prior year (i.e., three more homicides in 2019 which was less than a one percent increase over homicide numbers in 2018). In 2017 and 2018, the yearly total number of homicides increased by more than 35 additional homicides over each prior year (i.e., more than a 13 percent and 12 percent increase respectively).

We are reemerging from COVID-19 and ramping up our efforts

Although the pandemic has hampered our efforts to fully implement our plan these last few months, this has also proven how important our work is in this fight to reduce violence. Shortly after we could no longer operate in the same way due to COVID-19, we witnessed a dramatic increase in the violence as more of our collective efforts were offline.

So, despite these enormous challenges and setbacks, we believe this is also a reason to remain hopeful as we begin to ramp back up and redouble our anti-gun violence efforts.

While many major U.S. cities are seeing similar spikes in gun violence, we stand tall, shoulder to shoulder with our partners, with a bolstered commitment to restore public safety at home. There is nothing more vital than the right to be safe and secure in one’s home and neighborhood.