In Cherelle Parker, Council News, Curtis Jones, Jr., Kenyatta Johnson, Mark Squilla, News by PHL Council

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PHILADELPHIA, PA – City Council today outlined and detailed a multi-faceted violence prevention and job creation agenda in response to decades-high incidents of shootings and homicides in Philadelphia in 2020 that have continued unchecked into 2021.

Headlining these initiatives is the recently approved $400 Million Neighborhood Preservation Initiative, which will invest deeply in neighborhood revitalization, jobs training and other strategies to stabilize neighborhoods and mitigate the conditions of deep poverty strongly linked to high incidences of gun violence.

Other ongoing or newly funded initiatives on Council’s Violence Prevention and Opportunity Agenda include: programs and legislation to promote more efficient use of law enforcement resources, engage at-risk youth through community organizations, and support stronger, commonsense regulation of deadly weapons. Council’s agenda will also include the creation of a new Special Committee to Strategize Job Training as a key part of gun violence prevention policy citywide.

“The levels of gun violence seen in our city today are unprecedented and unacceptable,” said Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District), a longtime advocate for violence prevention strategies and programs. “We must think and act differently. We will prioritize programs that offer young people hope and the opportunity to put their energies to more constructive uses – in jobs and fulltime employment.”

Councilmembers announced the Violence Prevention & Opportunity Agenda at the headquarters of NoMo Inc., a North Philadelphia early intervention and job-readiness organization that prioritizes youth from vulnerable communities. Rickey Duncan, NoMo’s executive director, joined Council for the news conference.

Clarke was joined by his leadership team on Council – Majority Leader Cherelle L. Parker (9th District), Whip Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District), and Deputy Whip Mark Squilla (1st District). Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, who chairs Council’s Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention, also participated, along with other Councilmembers.

“It is the job of government to facilitate job creation, training and career development for our residents that create pathways to good jobs, careers, and opportunities as part of a violence-prevention strategy,” said Parker. “Jobs are a proven deterrent to violence.  A good job for a young woman or a young man can be difference between a career that lasts for a lifetime or a life that is cut tragically short.”

“City Council’s Violence Prevention & Opportunity Agenda is a strong first step as Council and Mayor Jim Kenney start discussions on gun violence prevention funding in the upcoming Fiscal 2022 Operating budget,” said Councilmember Johnson.

“Over the past few weeks, I’ve been holding Peace Not Guns Call-to-Action community conversations at recreation centers in my district so residents can share their suggestions on ways to stop the violence and increase the peace in Philadelphia,” Johnson continued. “What I have heard clearly from Philadelphians is that the COVID-19 coronavirus isn’t the only crisis impacting our city. We have reached an emergency status when it comes to gun violence, and all Philadelphians must work together to create short-term and long-term plans to address this senseless gun violence.”

Gun violence continues at a relentless pace locally. As of April 11, police reported:

• 139 homicides in 2021, a 36% increase over 2020

• 828 shooting incidents in 2021, a 13% increase over 2020

• 546 shooting victims in 2021, a 40% increase over 2020, and

• 50 shooting victims under the age of 18 in 2021, a 40% increase over 2020.

To combat this rising tide of violence, Council’s Agenda includes a mix of actions focused on illegal guns, strategies targeting jobs training initiatives, and other efforts designed to make Philadelphia’s neighborhoods more safe.

“There are many causes of violence, and the solutions will have to be multi-faceted as well,” said Council’s Whip, Curtis Jones Jr., who chairs Council’s Committee on Public Safety. “One size does not fit all”.

The Agenda’s highlights include:

  • Stronger, commonsense gun laws, such as lost and stolen handgun reporting
  • Suing the Commonwealth of PA for its inaction on gun violence – exacerbating the epidemic in cities like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and other towns
  • A resumption of Group Violence Intervention, a strategy combining group persuasion, social service and job training, and focused law enforcement
  • Gun Buybacks with community groups, faith leaders and police
  • Engaging At risk youths through partnerships with local community groups
  • Security cameras in neighborhoods that need them
  • Ongoing hearings that closely examine the police, the DA’s office, and criminal justice system’s response to gun violence

Among forward-facing, longer-term strategies and investments Council is undertaking:

  • Neighborhood Preservation Initiative. $400 Million investment in affordable housing and multiple neighborhood stabilization efforts to enhance public safety
  • New Normal Jobs Initiative. $10 Million invested in programs that focus on generating jobs and training individuals for employment (Same Day Pay, environmental stewardship, neighborhood revitalization, health care workers)
  • Curfew Centers, combining social services, community organizations and focused law enforcement in neighborhoods
  • Declaring a Citywide Emergency around gun violence, and treating it as a public health epidemic necessitating public health strategies and solutions
  • Hearings on the relationship between poverty, systemic racism and gun violence

“What we are doing clearly is not enough,” Council President Clarke said. “We need short-term actions to stem this violence, and longer-term strategies that invest in young people, providing job opportunities and hope. We cannot fail them, and we will not.”

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