“2021 is on track to be the most violent year we’ve experienced in our lifetimes” said Mayor Jim Kenney at a city-wide briefing on gun violence, the first of many to come.
City leaders met last week to discuss the issue of gun violence as the numbers climb higher and higher.
Over the weekend, a shooting in Nicetown left five people wounded and one man dead. He was shot 14 times.
According to Philadelphia Police, there have been 111 homicides this year to date. That is a 29 percent increased compared to this time last year.
Mayor Kenney says that part of the issue is the amount of firearms that are out there.
“The amount of guns on the street is irrational and crazy,” he said.
Researchers at Temple’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine recently found that containment measures due to the pandemic are linked to an increase in gun violence.
Director of Trauma Research Dr. Jessica Beard is the lead researcher for the study. She says that what we’re seeing in 2021 is actually a decrease from when the pandemic started.
“Shootings have been increasing over the past few years in Philadelphia, just kind of like a slope like this. And then in March we had a big spike and we’ve actually come down now,” she said.
Dr. Beard says moving forward, gun violence must not be looked at as solely a law enforcement issue, but also a health crisis.
“Approaching gun violence and framing and understanding gun violence as a public health problem is going to be really key”
According to Dr. Beard that means addressing the root cause of gun violence, which she says is poverty and structural racism.
Community leaders met Wednesday in a virtual community listening session on violence, hosted by the The Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement. Several organizations came together to discuss what mitigation efforts look like. Pastor Carl Day, member of the Philadelphia Office of Violence Prevention, says the real work starts in the streets.
“Getting outside, meeting people where they are, and having conversations” is one of the first steps in rebuilding “a sense of community” according to Pastor Day.
“If they shooting outside, we need to be outside! You know what I mean? So get outside and introduce yourself, talk to people,” he said.
Pastor Day is calling on community leaders to get outside and into the streets, so people can have trust in their community again.
The Office of Violence Prevention will continue to work with the City and other organizations to fight the pandemic of gun violence. The Mayor’s Office will now hold regular briefings on gun violence, as well as try to cut unemployment rates and find people jobs. They will also work with the police department on bridging the gap between youth and law enforcement.