One life lost to senseless violence is one too many and the uptick in gun violence is tearing our communities apart. The increase in gun violence that we’ve seen across the nation, and right here in Philadelphia, is heartbreaking and we must keep working together to stop it, save lives, and create a safer city for us all.
As we close in on the end of a year where we saw unprecedented levels of shootings and homicides, part of a disturbing trend nationwide, the City will continue to act with urgency to reduce violence and save lives.
Continuing our work on proven violence reduction strategies
In order for the City to address and stop gun violence, the Roadmap to Safer Communities coordinates public, private, nonprofit, and community partners to end gun violence.
These programs, initiatives, and interventions work in concert with each other to help the communities and individuals affected by gun violence, as well as directly interact with those perpetuating it.
Group Violence Intervention
With Group Violence Intervention, individuals most at risk of engaging in gun violence are called into a meeting and are told a simple message: the violence must STOP. If it continues, every legal tool available will be used to ensure they face swift consequences.
Individuals are connected to social services, employment, and community support to assist them in changing their lives.
“I never had interactions with police like I had during the [GVI engagement]. They were serious about stopping gun violence, but they were also really concerned for my [safety]. It was a weird encounter. Weird because it was positive not negative. More engagements like GVI can help build a bond between police and the community. You can’t come to the community with a lock-you-up mentality. No one is going want to work with you. But when you come with respect and a sense of care for the people, we will be more open to having a conversation. I think GVI did a good job with that.” – GVI Program Participant
From July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 (Fiscal Year 2021):
- 2,457 home visits were made to high-risk individuals.
- 904 referrals were made to service providers for high-risk individuals.
- 360 custom notifications were done for GVI.
From July 1, 2021 to September 30, 2021 (Quarter 1 of Fiscal Year 2022):
- 830 home visits were made to high-risk individuals.
- 606 referrals were made to service providers for high-risk individuals.
- 161 custom notifications were done for GVI.
Community Crisis Intervention Program
The Community Crisis Intervention Program (CCIP) is another violence prevention strategy. It uses credible messengers from neighborhoods vulnerable to gun violence to engage and disrupt violence by reducing tensions and mediating conflicts among those most likely to be victims or perpetrators of gun violence.
The Philadelphia Police Department’s Operation Pinpoint identifies a small number of blocks in an area that have become violence hotspots and uses data and intelligence to adjust its law enforcement approach in that area, such as:
- Frequency of foot patrols.
- Location of cameras.
- Partnerships with community leaders.
We’re seeing progress with our Operation Pinpoint Strategy, including overall reductions in violent crime within our pinpoint grids in many districts throughout the city.
The Philadelphia Police Department provides updates on Operation Pinpoint during the City’s bi-weekly gun violence response briefings.
Environmental changes, like fewer blighted buildings, cleaning abandoned lots, and better lighting increase a sense of safety in a neighborhood and connectedness among neighbors and reduce the locations where illegal guns are stored and where illegal activity occurs.
The City has funded an expansion of clean-and-green efforts organized by community groups and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, which now maintains over ten thousand parcels of land. This work is targeted at areas experiencing high rates of gun violence, and 44 percent of these lots are inside of Operation Pinpoint areas.
In addition, the Police Department meets regularly with City staff from Licenses and Inspections, the Streets Department, the Community Life Improvement Program, and other departments to target vacant home remediation, abandoned vehicle removal, and neighborhood cleanup efforts to areas experiencing violence.
Learn more about the City’s strategies and interventions for before, during, and after violence has occurred.
Investing in reducing gun violence in communities across our city
This year, with the passage of the FY22 budget, we made a historic investment of $155 million into proven anti-violence strategies:
- Community violence intervention programs.
- Enrichment opportunities and safe havens for youth, including opening two Community Evening Resource Centers, expanding Intensive Prevention Services, and increasing hours at recreation centers.
- Community-based prevention programs, offering after-school and summer program opportunities to more than 25,000 children and youth.
- Workforce development and job training, including 8,000 WorkReady slots. We’ve also added stipends to middle and high school Out of School Time programs, which focus on college and career preparedness.
Anti-Violence Community Partnership Grants
In July 2021, Mayor Kenney and City Council announced a multi-million investment in Anti-Violence Community Partnership Grants. This is a major piece of the historic $155 million investment in a wide array of violence prevention programming and services that contribute to the City’s violence prevention and reduction goals.
To achieve and sustain a reduction in gun violence and improve the quality of life in communities most affected by gun violence, the City is investing in organizations with proven track records of delivering quality anti-violence interventions to help them expand and strengthen their efforts.
Anti-Violence Community Expansion Grants
A key step in this effort is the Anti-Violence Community Expansion Grants. Through this program, we’ve distributed $13.5 million to 31 local organizations doing impactful anti-violence work on the ground in our communities.
Targeted Community Investment Grants
The Targeted Community Investment Grant Program awards microgrants to residents and grassroots organizations that offer needed prevention services and support in communities impacted by gun violence. In September 2021, the City announced the fourth round of funding awards.
Since 2019, this initiative has funded a total of 170 projects with an estimated combined award of nearly $3 million.
Partnering with the federal government
Community Violence Intervention Collaborative
Philadelphia is part of the cohort of 16 jurisdictions committed to scaling and strengthening their Community Violence Intervention (CVI) infrastructure.
After the White House announced the CVI Initiative in June, a national kick-off meeting was held on July 15. Subsequently, there have been two progress meetings with all the cities involved, as well as two technical assistance meetings specifically for Philadelphia with our provider, the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, to assess the supports needed for our strategy.
National Public Safety Partnership
In October 2021, the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) was selected to participate in the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) National Public Safety Partnership (PSP). As part of this partnership, PPD will receive intensive training and technical assistance from the DOJ in the areas of:
- Gun violence.
- Criminal justice collaboration.
- Constitutional policing.
- Community engagement.
- Federal partnerships.
- Crime analysis.
- Technology to identify, assess, and implement collaborative strategies and a lasting coordination structure to prevent and combat violent crime, especially related to gun, drug, and gang violence.
The National Public Safety Partnership supports the DOJ’s commitment to advancing work that promotes civil rights, increases access to justice, supports crime victims, protects the public from crime and evolving threats, and builds trust between law enforcement and the community. The PSP recently kicked off on Tuesday, November 30, 2021.
Lobbying for gun control
We know the volume of guns that are in circulation in our communities is at a record high. Across the country and our state, we have seen historically high rates of gun sales and permitting activity. These guns join the sea of illegal and legal guns that are accessible in the heat of the moment, turning what could have been an argument into a homicide.
The Philadelphia Police Department has already taken a record number of guns off our streets. This year, we’re on track to remove more than 6,000 crime guns from our streets, a 40 percent increase from two years ago. Each one of these guns off the street is one less that could be used to harm or kill Philadelphians.
For years, the Kenney administration has lobbied Harrisburg for the ability to control the availability of guns in our community, and about a year ago, we sued the commonwealth for the right to regulate guns in our city. On November 24, 2021, Mayor Kenney renewed that call:
“We know that commonsense regulation of guns would save lives. We only have to look across the river into New Jersey, where strong gun laws mean that the per capita rate of gun deaths is less than half of the rate here in Pennsylvania. So we collectively make this call again—with increased urgency: the Pennsylvania General Assembly must allow us to enact reasonable controls on guns in our city.” – Mayor Jim Kenney
Supporting residents who are experiencing loss, trauma, or violence
There is help available for anyone who may be struggling with loss, trauma, or violence.
- The Medical Examiner’s Office offers free bereavement support to grieving individuals.
- Healthy Minds Philly has a toolkit for addressing trauma and violence (PDF) that covers the many supports, hotlines, and resources available to residents who are struggling.
- The Department of Behavioral Health offers counseling and supports. Philadelphians can call 888-545-2600 at any time for resources. In addition, the department offers a variety of mental health resources and care for adults, children, and families.
- The Office of Domestic Violence Strategies has resources available for you or someone else who may be a victim of domestic violence.
- Get Healthy Philly’s Injury Prevention Program works to create a safe environment for all Philadelphia residents and maintains a list of violence prevention resources and supports.
- Healthy Minds Philly has a free mental health screening tool for anyone who is wondering if they may need help.
We have reasons to be hopeful for a return to better, safer times. It will take all of us working together—the criminal justice system, all levels of government, community and faith organizations, the business community, and residents—to create a safer city for all of us.