Follow CBSPHILLY Facebook | Twitter
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced Thursday a comprehensive plan to reduce violence and crime in the city following 2018, which saw the city’s highest murder rate in over a decade. Kenney introduced the “The Philadelphia Roadmap To Safer Communities” Wednesday, described as “a comprehensive action plan to address the increasing gun violence in neighborhoods across the city.”
In a press conference, Kenney announced a new approach to solving gun violence, looking at the issue through a public health lens, rather than relying on policing.
“When I issued a call to action on preventing gun violence last September, I asked for a new approach, markedly different than initiatives that primarily rely on policing,” Kenney said. “I asked for a plan that looks at violence through the lens of public health, one that relies on data and science to identify the most effective strategies to address these issues. This report is the result of that effort. I’m confident the strategies recommended in this report will bring Philadelphia a day when violence — particularly from guns — is no longer a constant threat to our residents.”
That means addressing the “underlying factors” that contribute to violence.
In September, Kenney established a Violence Prevention and Reduction Strategy Working Group to address the issue. The group was comprised of multiple city agencies, ordered to analyze, define and address gun violence.
Through focus groups, stakeholder meetings and community town halls, the group — led by Deputy Managing Director for Criminal Justice and Public Safety Vanessa Garrett Harley — set out to find solutions that “reflected the needs and hopes of the neighborhoods and individuals affected most by community gun violence, particularly young men of color between the ages of 16 to 34.”
On Thursday, the mayor announced the group’s broadest findings and recommendations:
- Promote community health and well-being by prioritizing the reduction of structural violence through unpacking and addressing the physical and programmatic inequities that exist in the communities at the highest risk of violence.
- Invest in additional analytical capacity and technology to implement Philadelphia Police Department’s Violent Crime Reduction Strategy “Operation Pinpoint,” which is a combination of intelligence-based and community-oriented policing.
- Build on the administration’s successful criminal justice reforms by improving reentry programs and services in Philadelphia and establish the Office of Reentry Partnerships in the Managing Director’s Office, in order to support successful reintegration of justice-involved and formerly incarcerated individuals to thrive in their communities.
“Taking a public health approach to gun violence allows us to develop strategies to address the underlying factors that contribute to the violence in our communities, not the least of which is the pervasive poverty in Philadelphia,” said Harley. “We cannot police our way out of this problem, nor is there any magic solution or one program alone that can solve this issue. But, with the right strategy and tools, one that incorporates and aligns intelligence-based and community-oriented policing with targeted social services and community empowerment, we believe that we can prevent and reduce gun violence in our communities.”
Each recommendation requires both short- and long-term actions. Kenney provided a few examples in a statement Wednesday.
- Create an Injury Prevention Unit focused on gun violence prevention within Department of Public Health.
- Create an infrastructure for synchronized “hot spot” activities that combines intelligence-based policing, supportive social services, and improvements to the surrounding environment.
- Implement the Neighborhood Resource Centers to provide place-based supports to those on supervision or reintegrating from incarceration, as well as their families.
- Establish neighborhood networks including police, social service agencies, community-based organizations, and faith leaders.
- Execute enhanced L&I enforcement for vacant lots, property violations, and side yards in high risk neighborhoods.
The “Roadmap to Safer Communities” also calls on a new police initiative: “Operation Pinpoint” — a combination of intelligence-base and community-oriented policing.
The operation will allow police to have 24/7, real-time data, providing officers with the intelligence needed for to keep communities safe. The new investments will also help authorities to “pinpoint” communities where violence is most prevalent.
“There is no single panacea for the prevalence of gun violence on our streets,” said Commissioner Richard Ross. “So, I appreciate the comprehensive and collaborative approach of the Mayor’s action plan, because we need to tackle this issue on many different fronts. I’m confident that Operation Pinpoint will have an appreciable impact on gun violence in Philadelphia, and serve as a key component of the larger violence reduction plan contained in this roadmap.”