PHILADELPHIA – Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District) today issued the following statement on the City of Philadelphia approaching the grim milestone of 500 homicides:
“I am deeply saddened that our city is one homicide away from the grim milestone of 500 homicides, with over a month left in 2021. More than a statistic, each homicide represents lives cut short, traumatized family, friends, and community members, and residents who feel trapped and threatened in neighborhoods inundated with relentless gunfire. This figure represents children who don’t feel safe traveling to and from school, business owners who don’t feel safe operating, first responders who internalize the pain of losing lives again and again, and people looking to leave this city at the first available opportunity. And in this way, the impact of 500 homicides is more than we can competently quantify.
“I first called for an emergency response to Philadelphia’s gun violence crisis at the beginning of September, 2020. At the time, the city had suffered approximately 300 homicides, leading Philadelphia towards its second-most violent year in decades. Since then, I have continued to advocate with community members, advocacy groups and other elected officials, participated in numerous City Council hearings and panels, and attempted to partner with senior members of the administration on this issue. And yet, while the bullets have continued to fly at alarming rates, our call has not been taken up. And every time something horrific and shocking happened–a mass shooting at a 4th of July barbecue, a one-year-old baby shot in his mother’s arms as she grocery shopped, a 16-year-old shot on a basketball court, his lifeless body left all alone–I wondered if it would be a turning point. Now, 800 homicides later, there is still no evidence of a comprehensive, urgent response to the problem at hand, despite repeated outcries from principals, students, community members, business owners, hospital workers and more.
“My office has witnessed firsthand some of the consequences of the lack of a citywide comprehensive emergency response to this epidemic. We have worked with neighbors and dedicated City agency leaders to try to address nuisance properties that are hotspots for drug activity and violence. Oftentimes, our collective efforts have been insufficient because there is no emergency response framework to marshal the various City systems involved towards a creative solution. We have attempted to use local funds to relocate residents in fear of gun violence. There are not nearly enough resources to effectuate the needed relocations, and in two cases, families we were trying to assist experienced the murder of loved ones before relocations we’re finalized. We have worked with schools who tell us they do not have the trauma resources to treat the devastation wrought by gun violence. Their students continue to suffer as a result.
“I am happy that my City Council colleagues and I fought for and won twenty million dollars for community-based anti-gun violence efforts and millions more for City implemented anti-violence spending. I truly believe the funds for community-based groups will make a difference. However, a significant amount of the additional funding classified as “anti-violence spending” will not be nearly as impactful without a comprehensive and coordinated emergency response to the gun violence crisis. Every agency should be collaborating on a daily basis to deliver resources to the people and neighborhoods most impacted by gun violence, this includes addressing trauma, blight, short dumping, street lights, street outreach and mediation, workforce development and more, working hand-in-hand with effective policing and enforcement.
“We need to show residents in these neighborhoods who are Black and brown that they matter to us. It is not too late to create and implement an emergency response, but we need urgent action, not pilots, or plans to create more plans. Let’s immediately fund what we know works. We have seen what an emergency response looks like during the COVID-19 pandemic, but we need to decide whether people in Black and brown neighborhoods are worth the collective effort a true emergency response would require. I am truly very sad we reached this milestone, but it is not too late to step-up, lean deeper into this issue, build out operations, coordinate resources, and address this epidemic with the energy it deserves. Philadelphians are counting on us, and their very lives depend on our action.”
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