There are no words that can properly express the constant waves of heartbreak, anger, and anxiety we feel from the devastation our city has experienced in 2020. Philadelphians saw local shootings and homicides reach epic proportions—with our communities torn apart by violence. This came on top of the global pandemic that claimed over 2,300 Philadelphians’ lives, an ongoing economic crisis, and a societal reckoning about systemic racism and the unjust treatment of Black people at the hands of police.
The majority of the lives lost to violence were taken by gunfire, and more than 2,000 people were shot overall. An alarming number of shooting victims were women and children, and those who survived were left with life-changing trauma and medical issues that create additional barriers to a full recovery.
Not only have we lost precious lives, but I’ve heard from many community members this year that they’ve also lost a sense of security. More of us are on edge, wondering what will happen next. No one should have to live this way.
I want all Philadelphians impacted by violence to know that I share in your sorrow. I share in your pain. This is also true of everyone in our Administration. It is why we are doing everything possible to stem the tide of loss and save every life we can. As we work feverishly to slow the spread of COVID-19 and get our lives back to some sense of normalcy, we are doing the same with gun violence—our other long-running public health crisis.
Even amid a year that forced the City to cut a record $750 million from our operating budget and make painful layoffs and cuts to services, we are realigning resources to strengthen our efforts to reduce the violence.
The new Office of Policy and Strategic Initiatives for Criminal Justice and Public Safety in the Managing Director’s Office is unifying the work of the Office of Violence Prevention, Office of Criminal Justice, Office of Reentry Partnerships, and Town Watch Integrated Services to better partner with community members to lift up the great assets of every neighborhood and better align investments across departments with a focus on creating safer communities.
Our programs, Group Violence Intervention, the Community Crisis Intervention Program, Targeted Community Investment Grants, and the Violence Prevention Partnership are adapting to these changed times, working even harder to help individuals find alternatives to violence, manage the trauma caused by it, and invest in grassroots programs to prevent it. Their work was stymied by the pandemic in some ways, but I assure you they are back on track for 2021.
We are also investing in local, community-driven work to reform our criminal justice system as we repair the damage caused by decades of racism and inequality. That’s only part of it. You can read more about our work under the Philadelphia Roadmap to Safer Communities.
In the meantime, please know that there are no rivalries in this work. There is only one team on the field. It is the community working with the City. The seats at the table are all the same size. The ‘working in silos’ is ending. This is a full court press.
I know we all probably wish we could forget 2020 ever happened, but our Administration is boldly facing the realities before us, with all of the strength, grit, passion, and spirit Philadelphians are known for.
We don’t give up. We don’t give in. We are determined to save lives and create peace. We will turn the page on this dark chapter in the history of our city, and we will write the new book together. I vow to be with Philadelphians every step of the way as we take on this challenge.