Mayor Jim Kenney on Thursday unveiled a new five-year anti-violence plan he says will dramatically reduce Philadelphia’s alarming rates of gun violence, whose victims are overwhelmingly Black and people of color.
Kenney committed an initial $4.4 million to a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to gun violence that will focus on prevention, intervention, enforcement and re-entry. The mayor framed the killings and shootings on city streets that reached historic levels last year as a public health crisis and “ultimately a symptom of the larger crisis of pervasive poverty.”
“We must get away from the mindset that policing is the only answer to this problem,” Kenney said to scores of officials and community members in the Mayor’s Reception Room in City Hall on Thursday.
The plan, “The Philadelphia Roadmap to Safer Communities,” provides recommendations and strategies for multiple city agencies and the Philadelphia Police Department, as well as creating a new office to address re-entry for formerly incarcerated individuals.
The recommendations include:
Promoting community health and well-being by addressing inequities that exist in communities with a high risk of violence.
Investing in technologies to launch and implement Operation Pinpoint, the police department’s violent crime reduction strategy, which is a combination of intelligence-based and community-oriented policing.
Establish the Office of Re-entry Partnerships, run by the Managing Director’s Office, to support those formerly incarcerated, as well as build on programs and initiatives already in place.
“Operation Pinpoint will augment our existing crime prevention and response strategies and initiatives,” Police Commissioner Richard Ross said, “and we believe will have an appreciable impact on gun violence in Philadelphia.”
Chief Inspector Dan MacDonald, one of the architects of Operation Pinpoint, said the plan will bring all the information the city has about crime into one location for analysis and to make predictions, which will be shared with officers for early intervention efforts.
MacDonald said Operation Pinpoint makes use of much of the department’s current efforts and technologies.
“It’s what we’ve done before, in a much more streamlined, faster fashion than we’ve been able to do in the past,” MacDonald said.
The initial $4.4 million will fund the implementation of some elements of the plan through the end of the fiscal year on June 30. Kenney said he intends to seek a yet-undetermined amount of funds to finance the rest of the plan during the budget negotiations in the spring.
The plan calls for the establishment of the Implementation Team for Safer Communities, which will put the plan into action and evaluate the short- and long-term goals. The mayor said the goals include reversing the increase of homicides the city has seen in recent years — ultimately bringing that figure to zero.
The plan received the blessings of City Council members, including Council President Darrell Clarke, and community activists representing grassroots organizations. However, they all agreed the plan was a start, not a panacea.
Clarke noted violence in the city is nothing new, but “the level of violence that we’re experiencing today is a different type of violence.”
He said he was encouraged by the level of commitment he has seen across city agencies and the administration.
“At the end of the day, we will never be the city that we think we are until we create a safer community for everybody,” said the council president.
The plan is not perfect, Councilman Curtis Jones said, “but it’s a beginning.”
“For the first time in a long time, we have a game plan,” Jones said.
While Kenney listed initiatives and programs his administration already has put in place to combat gun violence — including expanding the Community Crisis Intervention program, investing in alternatives to incarceration, reducing the number of people incarcerated in the city — “clearly more needs to be done,” he said.
The breadth of the issue and the inability of these programs to stop the violence can be seen clearly in the numbers, particularly of Blacks.
Last year, 1,403 people were shot in Philadelphia, and 84.6 percent of them were Black, predominantly men, according to data from the police department.
City police also reported 351 homicides — a jump of 11.4 percent from 2017 and a figure not reached since 2007, when 391 were killed — and approximately 81 percent of the victims were Black.
Blacks make up roughly 43 percent of the city population.
Kenney tasked his administration with developing the new approach to reducing homicides and shootings in Philadelphia. The deadline was met, but the plan wasn’t immediately revealed.
Vanessa Garrett Harley, deputy managing director of criminal justice and public safety, developed the administration’s new blueprint for addressing violence alongside Theron Pride, senior director of violence prevention strategies and programs.
The anti-violence strategy was a collaborative among the Office of Violence Prevention, Police Department, Department of Public Health, Department of Human Services and other city departments and agencies, as well as criminal justice stakeholders and members of the community.
Chantay Love, director of the nonprofit Every Murder Is Real, was among those who worked on the new plan. She said the administration came up with a holistic, trauma-informed approach that “connects the dots.”
Love said the new approach marked a profound moment when the administration, city agencies, law enforcement and community organizations worked together. But Love noted more work lies ahead.
“No, it may not be perfect, but it’s a start and we must all band around it, together,” Love said.