I couldn’t sleep last night trying to dissect all of the causes for the pandemic-level rise in gun violence in Philadelphia. It is a multi-pronged problem that will require an all-hands-on-deck solution. This national problem shocked Overbrook Park, an otherwise peaceful neighborhood in my district, with a shootout that resulted in two deaths, including that of a 16-year-old boy who had his whole life ahead of him.
No neighborhood should consider this normal—or acceptable. The opioid crisis rose to a level of concern that the City’s resources were coordinated and deployed. Last year’s pandemic created an interdepartmental Covid-19 strategy to save lives.
Gun violence in the City of Philadelphia continues to be the leading cause of death among African-American males between the ages of 16 to 25. A similar approach is warranted.
If 300 whales washed up on the shores of the Delaware River, every marine biologist would rally to find the cause and a solution. Our youth deserve every bit of our effort in solving our gun violence problem, and saving their lives.
The city, state and federal governments must come together with private stakeholders and communities to develop a “Marshall Plan” to confront this pandemic of violence. As chair of the Public Safety Committee for City Council, below are long-term and short-term steps to be considered to combat gun violence.
- Establish conflict resolution strategies in schools, communities and on social media.
- Create a school-to-paycheck pipeline—creating living wage jobs for at-risk youth.
- Reinforce recreation center activities to engage youth who are sitting idly waiting for the next confrontation.
- Deploy trained professionals to de-escalate retaliatory grudge shootings on our streets.
- Create a network of mentor-protégé connections, administered by credible messengers to provide pathways to success.
- Reinvigorate the following programs and activities: Town Watch, truancy centers, curfew centers and other safe havens in the neighborhood for youth to attend. These programs will reinforce our youths’ responsibility to structured guidelines.
- Establish a hotline for parents and citizens to report anonymously a volatile youth who needs guidance or intervention, along with adult criminal activities, hot spots and enterprises.
- Continue citywide gun buy-back programs.
- For those shooters who choose the gun, they should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
- During the height of the ’70s gang war, the criminal justice system often gave youth a choice. By increasing military and job corps we can give viable options to redirect the trajectory of at-risk individuals.
- Consider overnight residential schools in Philadelphia, similar to the House of Umoja concept.
- Deploy high-violence hot spot monitoring, with use of city cameras as well as bicycle and foot patrols.
My colleagues, including Council President Darrell Clarke, Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson and Councilmember Jamie Gauthier and others, have been raising our voices to bring attention to this emergency and we cannot stop now.
As we begin to grapple with the city’s budget in the coming months, we must involve all departments in addressing the pandemic of violence. With $1.4 billion in funding coming to Philadelphia from Washington, D.C., we have no excuses.
The Citizen is one of 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow the project on Twitter @BrokeInPhilly.
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Curtis Jones Jr. is a third term member of Philadelphia City Council representing the 4th District.Header photo by Jared Piper / Philadelphia City Council