PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Imagine being a child and being too scared to play outside out of fear of being shot. It’s a valid concern for many kids in Philadelphia, where roughly one out of every 12 shooting victims are children.
The suspect charged with Ceani Smalls’ murder is in jail, charged with murder and is scheduled to be formally arraigned next week.READ MORE: Biden Administration Enacts New Travel Rules Due To Spread Of COVID-19 Omicron Variant
As for Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, she plans to address the concerns about the city’s gun violence in a five-year strategic plan.
We’re still awaiting details, but as the mom of two young men, she says the issue is personal to her.
There’s a special bond among friends who grow up together on the same neighborhood street.
“Every day after school I come right there, knock on Cece’s door,” friend Jada Scott said.
For teens Zimera High, Ahnya Molina and Jada Scott, that tight-knit sisterhood was shattered by a single bullet.
“When they just closed the casket I realized, I’m not gonna see her ever again,” Ahnya said.
“It don’t really matter who you are, anything can happen to you,” Zimera said.
Their friend, Ceani, was getting off of a SEPTA bus a block away from her home in North Philadelphia in November after shopping with friends, celebrating her straight-A report card. That’s when, police say, convicted felon Robert Jamieson began randomly shooting.
Ceani was 16 years old.
About one out of every 12 shooting victims in Philadelphia last year was a child under 18 years old. And since 2015, 67 kids younger than 18 were killed by bullets in the city.
The shootings devastated their friends and classmates, leaving many feeling not only helpless but also afraid.READ MORE: WATCH LIVE: District Attorney Larry Krasner, Gun Violence Task Force To Announce Arrest, Charges Of Gun Trafficking Suspect
“Doing anything that kids do, that can’t happen anymore. Being outside, being with your friends, you don’t know if somebody has a gun,” Ahnya said.
“We should be able to go places and do things, but we can’t. It hurts. That could have been me, God forbid, it could have been me,” Zimera said.
What’s Outlaw’s response to the parents and children afraid to go outside?
“You’re asking me this as a police commissioner, but it’s very difficult not to answer, personally, as a parent. I understand the fear and concern, but it’s our role to make sure that we’re not living in that fear,” Outlaw said.
Outlaw says targeting the city’s rampant gun violence is a challenge and top priority. Her approach: combating crime while providing opportunities for the city’s youth.
“It’s gonna take more than just enforcement from the police side to ensure that our kids are not only safe but that they can thrive,” Outlaw said.
For Ceani’s father, Dwayne Small, it’s little comfort.
“It’s really hard. Never thought in a million years that I’d be burying my child,” he said. “It’s a tragedy. It’s not fair to a lot of people.”
Small and other parents say they now have to be over-protective.
“She’s not even allowed to go to the corner store anymore. I’m not allowing my daughter to enjoy her teenage life and I hate to be like that,” Philly parent Cynthia Seabrook said.
Ceani’s murder is a constant reminder of their shaken sense of security and their new reality.
“We just wanna live life, and people can’t really do that,” Jada said.MORE NEWS: Water Main Break Flooding Multiple Buildings In Society Hill Section, Officials Say
For a list of gun violence resources in Philadelphia, click here.