PHILADELPHIA, February 25, 2021 – Today, Councilmember Derek Green (At-Large) introduced a resolution authorizing the Committee on Finance and the Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention to hold joint hearings regarding the connection between poverty, gun violence, and systemic racism in Philadelphia.
The legislation, which is co-sponsored by Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District) – Chair of the Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention – along with 11 other Councilmembers – aims to take a deeper dive into the depths of the gun violence epidemic that continues to plague our City and how it directly connects with the driving factors of a disturbingly high poverty rate of 24.5% (the highest of the ten largest U.S. cities) and systemic racial inequities that have been exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
At the close of 2020, Philadelphia saw 499 murders – the highest number in 31 years. Almost 3 months into 2021, the City’s homicide rate is up 42% from this time last year, with 75 lives lost to senseless violence. The devastation and continuing challenges brought by COVID-19 have made already desperate, disproportionate circumstances all the more dire as the pandemic has shuttered more than half of Black owned businesses citywide between March and July 2020 alone – 68% of Black establishments compared to 44% of white enterprises according to recent data – and further aggravated issues of social isolation, joblessness and economic precarity.
“While it’s true that we are making inroads as far as mitigating further spread of the coronavirus is concerned, we are witnessing another public health and safety emergency worsen every day,” said Councilmember Green. “It’s no coincidence that violence has exponentially increased since the start of this pandemic and unless we acknowledge the facts of this three-pronged issue, there will be no end in sight for this gun violence epidemic in Philadelphia.
“In spite of what will inevitably be a difficult fiscal year, I look forward to working with Councilmember Johnson and the rest of my Council colleagues to come up with solutions that display our priorities and dedication to improving the quality of life of our citizens and will ultimately steer our City toward the safer, more prosperous and equitable future that we owe to our children and generations to come.”
“There is no doubt that gun violence, socioeconomic status and institutionalized racism are inextricably linked, especially in a City with poverty levels like ours,” said Councilmember Johnson. “The pain of watching one more family deal with the unthinkable loss of losing a child to violence is too much to bear. It’s incumbent upon us as lawmakers to take the necessary steps to implement permanent and lasting change that transcends and improves quality-of-life issues like healthcare access, job security and so much more.”