Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson speaking at a podium with citizens standing around him

PHILADELPHIA CITY COUNCIL APPROVES COUNCILMAN KENYATTA JOHNSON’S LEGISLATION CREATING A NEW OFFICE OF THE VICTIM ADVOCATE IN PHILADELPHIA

In Council News, Kenyatta Johnson, News by PHL Council

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PHILADELPHIA—JUNE 25, 2020— Philadelphia City Council overwhelming approved a bill and resolution sponsored by City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District) that will create a brand new Office of the Victim Advocate in Philadelphia.

Now that the legislation creating the Office of the Victim Advocate in Philadelphia has been approved by City Council, a yes or no ballot question will be put to voters in the upcoming November general election. If the ballot question is approved in November, the Mayor would then select the person who will be the Victim Advocate and that person would have to be confirmed by City Council. The Office of the Victim Advocate is expected to open sometime in 2021.

“I want to thank all of my Council colleagues, victims and co-victims of violence in Philadelphia for supporting this legislation,” Johnson said. “This office is needed in City of Philadelphia government to work on system wide issues affecting victims and co-victims. The advocates have told me that the fragmented nature of victim services leads to a lack of consistency and timing of outreach and services provided. I believe that we owe it to victims and co-victims to give them a voice within City government, and this proposed charter change will do just that. The new Office of the Victim Advocate is long overdue in Philadelphia.”

The new Philadelphia Victim Advocate would offer a hub for crime victims, survivors and others affected by crime. The office’s functions would include coordination, planning, and
oversight with a special emphasis on serving victims and co victims of gun violence and other forms of homicide.

The creation of the Office of the Victim Advocate, which was introduced in Council in early March, was a result of hearings and meetings done by a sub-committee of City Council’s
Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention to examine the effect of gun violence on victims and co-victims as well as the resources available to them. Johnson is the chairman of
this Special Committee.

As of June 23, 190 people have been the victims of homicides in Philadelphia, a 22% percent increase compare to this same time in 2019, according to statistics on the Philadelphia Police Department website. In 2019, Philadelphia recorded 356 homicides. That total marked the highest homicide count in over a decade and was higher than the 353 homicides recorded in 2018. Almost all those homicides were committed with firearms and people of color are disproportionately likely to be victims or co-victims of gun violence.

In addition to those being murdered in our city, there were also more than 1,400 non-fatal shootings in Philadelphia in 2019. The victims of violence often suffer long-term disability, including paralysis, organ malfunction, and chronic pain.

Among those supporting the legislation are: Dr. Dorothy Johnson-Speight, Founder/National Executive Director of Mothers In Charge,Inc.; Aleida Garcia, co-founder, National Homicide Justice Alliance; Chantay Love, Program Director of E.M.I.R. (Every Murder is Real) Healing Center; Stanley Crawford, leader of Black Male Community Council of Philadelphia; Felicia Pendleton, Founder, Mothers United By Angels; and Jennifer R. Storm, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Victim Advocate.

The Office of the Victim Advocate in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Office of Victim Advocate would be two separate offices.

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