By Natasha Brown


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s top law enforcement officials answered tough questions Wednesday, after city council called an emergency hearing over the city’s gun violence crisis. According to Philadelphia police, there have been 612 shootings in the city so far in 2019.

That number has risen from 567 shootings at this time in 2018.

The Philadelphia police commissioner, the district attorney and other public safety officials were peppered with questions during the hearing in council chambers. The meeting lasted about four hours with everyone involved trying to find ways to stop the city’s rising gun violence.

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The spike in shootings and homicides in Philadelphia had city officials alarmed enough to call the emergency hearing, which came on the heels of a wave of gun violence.

“We really hit rock bottom when a little over a week ago, someone shot up a graduation celebration and quieted the street in Southwest Philadelphia,” one official said.

In total during that violent Father’s Day weekend, 32 people were shot in 22 separate incidents. That was followed by this past weekend of more shootings and homicides.

“Behind these numbers are people that have families that are devastated by what they see each and every day,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said. “It’s not just the carnage that impacts the victims, it is the carnage that is created from young children that have witnessed it and should never see this.”

Commissioner Ross addressed council members who fired off tough questions about what’s being done to stop the violence.

He touted the city’s recent initiative called “Operation Pinpoint”, which targets some of the crime hot spot areas in the city.

“In those pinpoint areas we’ve seen a 20% decrease in shootings and homicide victims. However, that is juxtaposed to the 8% increase in the other areas that are not covered by Pinpoint,” he said.

Heading into the summer months with gun violence already on the rise, the commissioner says more officers will be added to the street and working extra hours.

“When you’re a 16-year-old who has hope, who sees a future, who wants to finish school, who sees a job and wants to live past the age of 30, you are not so drawn to a gun in your right hand,” Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said.

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Krasner went on to say there is a much deeper and broader issue at play in the city that is contributing to the violence and it is one that does not come with an easy solution.

“We are in the poorest of the 10 largest cities at certain periods of time, it has been the most violent in the 10 largest cities and that is no mistake and that goes back decades and it has everything to do with the proper way to do all of this,” Krasner said.

Council members with the Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention say this administration has invested more than $30 million to address the issue of gun violence prevention over the next several years.