Do Something

Fight gun violence

Fed up with guns and violence? So are we. Read up on positive protest strategies and ways to cope with and prevent school shootings

Listen to The Philadelphia Citizen’s 2021 podcast series Philly Under Fire, a deep dive into the underlying causes and possible solutions to the gun violence crisis.

Learn more here about Cure Violence, a broad community approach to preventing and reducing gang violence that treats violence as an infectious disease.

Community-based violence intervention programs have been used for twenty years to reduce violence in communities by as much as 60%, but they require funding and commitment. Read more about how CVI programs work here.

The Roca Impact Institute is offering communities and institutions that are committed to ending gun violence a coaching program to learn their CBT-based approach to violence intervention. You can learn more and support their work here.

Drexel University’s Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice operates Helping Hurt People in Philadelphia for survivors and witnesses to violence, from ages 8 to 35. Read more about the program and support them here.

The CDC offers comprehensive resources and information on preventing gun violence that includes data and education, research on effective solutions, and promoting collaboration across sectors to address the problem.


Read More

Mayor Cherelle L. Parker’s 100-Day Action Plan

Mayor Cherelle L. Parker’s 100-Day Action Plan outlines what the new mayor’s goals for the first three months of her administration. Read up on Mayor Parker’s ideas for public safety.

Dig deeper

Gun violence is more than statistics

An image of a city in crisis, no matter how disheartening, can be more impactful than raw numbers. From the Office of the Controller, this is an interactive map of violence in Philadelphia. View and interact with data going back to 2015 on homicides and shootings in the city. Each data point is a person injured or killed.

For a national context, The Gun Violence Archive is a stark repository of the statistics on gun violence in America. Here you can export research data, view maps and Congressional reports, and review almost in real-time the toll that guns have exacted on us. Remember that each of these numbers is a person with a story.

Working Under the Gun

Gun violence citywide decreased in 2023 — but attacks on public employees continued to rise. Can the City keep its bus drivers — and other workers — safe?

Working Under the Gun

Gun violence citywide decreased in 2023 — but attacks on public employees continued to rise. Can the City keep its bus drivers — and other workers — safe?

On the morning of October 26, 2023, Bernard Gribbin, a retired U.S. Army veteran and a city bus driver for 12 years, pulled up to a stop in Philadelphia’s Germantown section. Moments later, a young female passenger who was getting off the bus drew a handgun and shot him multiple times in the torso and neck.

Gribbin, 48, became the first city transit operator to die by gunfire while on the job. His shooting stunned the city — as did the slaying of a city police officer at Philadelphia International Airport two weeks earlier — and prompted legislators to introduce a state bill that would enhance criminal charges for interfering with and assaulting bus and mass transit operators while they worked.

[Editor’s note: This story was also published by The Trace, a nonprofit newsroom covering gun violence in America. Sign up for its newsletters here.]

Gribbin’s shooting was not an isolated incident. Rather it was part of a troubling trend affecting Philadelphia public-sector employees that has not abated since January 2023. As overall gun violence in the city declined for a second straight year, threats of gun violence and actual attacks on non-police public employees have increased slightly. While no city employees outside law enforcement were shot on the job during the fiscal years between 2019 and 2022, three were shot during fiscal year 2023, which ended June 30, and two have been shot in fiscal year 2024, which began July 1, according to data the city provided to The Trace.

“You ask yourself, how many people have to be assaulted or beaten or killed or done maliciously before somebody wakes up and realizes we have a problem,” says Brian Pollitt, president of TWU Local 234. His union represents 3,500 bus and train operators who work for SEPTA, the transit authority, not the city.

The spike in gun violence and threats against SEPTA employees in particular have been more pronounced. In 2023, there were 13 gun incidents compared to seven in 2022, and five in 2021, SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch says.

“A revolving door.”

Nationwide, workplace violence is also on the rise, according to a December report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Fatalities due to violence and other injuries by people or animals increased by 11.6 percent from 761 in 2021 to 849 in 2022, the report noted. Homicides accounted for 61.7 percent of these fatalities, with 524 deaths, an 8.9 percent increase.

The employees at highest risk of violence, the report says, were delivery drivers, healthcare professionals, public service workers, customer service agents, law enforcement personnel, those who work alone or in small groups, and those who exchange money with the public.

Gribbin was the primary caregiver for his wife, who suffers from a debilitating medical condition. In addition to his slaying in Philadelphia, another SEPTA employee escaped injury when a gunman fired into a bus in 2023. There were also three incidents during which guns were brandished at employees, and eight incidents in which employees were verbally threatened with guns with no weapons visible, Busch says.

“At report card conference time, many of the teachers are afraid to come back into the communities at night because it’s dark, and they don’t know what the heck is going on in neighborhoods where there are beefs taking place.” — Jerry Jordan, PFT President.

The violence faced by SEPTA employees, Pollitt says, is driving some to resign, resulting in a shortage of bus and train operators. “This is the first time that the SEPTA job has become a revolving door,” he says. “They hire people and they see there is no protection for them and they’re quiting. People are choosing life over death.”

Busch confirmed that the system is 150 bus drivers short — because of concerns over safety as well as slower hiring during the pandemic and competition from companies like FedEx and Amazon.

“Things have really gotten bad within the last five years, and it’s getting worse,” Pollitt continued. “Our system has been taken over by the homeless, the drug addicted, and the mentally ill. Most in that community are in dire straits and have nothing to lose.”

The union has asked Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro to deploy National Guard members to subway station platforms, Pollitt says, while it is also working with SEPTA management on implementing safety upgrades, including bullet-proof compartments for drivers.

Busch says SEPTA’s police force currently has 178 officers and is expected to reach or exceed its budgeted headcount of 191 officers when the class of recruits now training graduates later this year. In the interim, he says, transit officers, aided by Philadelphia police officers and other local law enforcement partners, have increased the number of check-ins they make on buses.

“Regarding the tragic death of Mr. Gribbin, SEPTA is working closely with the union representing bus operators … to determine what additional employee safety measures we can implement,” Busch says. “There is no specific language in the contract that addresses this, but both sides agreed during negotiations that more needs to be done.”

Shortly after Gribbin’s shooting, Zhontay Capers, 21, was arrested, charged with murder. She is being held without bail. Authorities say she attacked the driver without provocation, and they have not disclosed a possible motive.

Public employees at risk

On-the-job violence remained a problem for other city workers, too. For the first time, an employee of the Philadelphia Parking Authority was shot on the job in November 2022. According to the authority, threats of gun violence against its workers dropped in 2023; assaults increased from 19 in 2022 to 44 in 2023.

While no Philly school teachers have been shot on the job in recent years, many are on edge over community violence, which often casts a pall over teaching and learning, says Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

Such violence claimed the life of Bilal Henry, 33, a husband, father, and school climate staffer at a Northeast Philadelphia elementary school, the night of December 28. After answering a knock at his front door, Henry was struck by 13 shots fired by two gunmen who remains at large. His wife and children were on the second floor of their home, say police, who have not identified a motive.

“He was well-loved at the school and got along great with the staff and kids,” Jordan says. “So I have no idea what the root cause is.”

Henry’s job entailed helping maintain order and discipline at Mayfair Elementary. Principal William Day wrote in a letter to the school community: “Mr. B supported our younger students and our Socialized Recess where he played basketball and taught the lessons of fairness and having fun while playing. He will be deeply missed.”

“I am fully committed to ending this sense of lawlessness that has been so pervasive in our city and bringing back a sense of order and lawfulness.” — Mayor Cherelle Parker

When school reopened after the Christmas break, an emergency crisis response team of mental health professionals was on hand to help Mayfair’s students and staff cope with Henry’s death. “My members do not feel safe in many locations,” Jordan says. “At report card conference time, many of the teachers are afraid to come back into the communities at night because it’s dark, and they don’t know what the heck is going on in neighborhoods where there are beefs taking place. We know that, unfortunately, at any time, gun violence can erupt.”

On the same day that Henry was killed, miles away in the Southwest part of the city, three men connected to the city’s Group Violence Intervention program came under fire. The city launched the program in August 2020 to engage the small number of people identified as being at greatest risk of driving gun violence.

The three had just returned from lunch and were getting out of a van when shooting started, police say. The driver, a supervisor with a partner organization, was uninjured, but the other two men, who had signed up with GVI to receive services to turn their lives around, were shot multiple times. Jalonnie Gentry, 28, died, while the other man is recovering. Police have no motive nor suspects.

“While it is a shock and tragedy, this speaks to why this program is so neccessary,” says Sharon Gallagher, a city spokesperson.

Hours after Cherelle Parker was sworn in on January 2, Philadelphia’s new mayor signed an executive order declaring a public safety emergency, citing more than 3,000 shooting incidents in 2023, and a 28 percent increase in retail thefts and a 72.4 percent jump in car thefts since 2022.

Parker directed her first hire, Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel, to work with other city officials to develop a comprehensive public safety plan within 100 days that spells out how they will increase the number of police officers on patrol, reduce crime, get illegal all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes off the streets, and shut down open-air drug markets.

When asked about violence against public workers, Parker assured that help was on the way. She says, “I am fully committed to ending this sense of lawlessness that has been so pervasive in our city and bringing back a sense of order and lawfulness.”


Header photo by Theo Wyss-Flamm

The Philadelphia Citizen will only publish thoughtful, civil comments. If your post is offensive, not only will we not publish it, we'll laugh at you while hitting delete.

Be a Citizen Editor

Suggest a Story

Advertising Terms

We do not accept political ads, issue advocacy ads, ads containing expletives, ads featuring photos of children without documented right of use, ads paid for by PACs, and other content deemed to be partisan or misaligned with our mission. The Philadelphia Citizen is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization and all affiliate content will be nonpartisan in nature. Advertisements are approved fully at The Citizen's discretion. Advertisements and sponsorships have different tax-deductible eligibility. For questions or clarification on these conditions, please contact Director of Sales & Philanthropy Kristin Long at [email protected] or call (609)-602-0145.