Mayor Kenney Announces New Gun Violence Prevention Initiative

The announcement comes on the heels of a year that saw the city’s highest homicide rate in more than a decade.

Police gather at the scene of a quadruple shooting in Philadelphia in November 2018. Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

At a City Hall press conference on Thursday afternoon, Mayor Jim Kenney announced a new set of initiatives aimed to curb gun violence in Philadelphia. The policy recommendations, which followed an official call to action issued by Kenney last September, come amid an rising tide of violence in Philadelphia. The city saw more than 1,400 shootings last year — the most in a decade — and 351 homicides, the vast majority of which were committed with guns.

“We need to intervene,” Kenney said. “The young people who resort to violence as a result of daily interactions, drugs, and other things, they are our children also.”

Vanessa Garrett Harley, deputy managing director for criminal justice and public safety, led the policy reform effort, which declared gun violence a “public health crisis” in the city. The final recommendations, released in a report titled “The Philadelphia Roadmap to Safer Communities,” included three main initiatives: promoting community engagement in poor neighborhoods that are most susceptible to gun violence; a new policing strategy dubbed “Operation Pinpoint,” effectively an investment in technology that officials say will help officers target and protect at-risk neighborhoods; and buttressing anti-recidivism resources for past offenders through the establishment of a new Office of Reentry Partnerships.

Mayor Kenney’s announcement comes at a time when other major cities are experiencing a decline in gun violence. Of the 10 cities with the most homicides in 2017, only Philadelphia and Baltimore had an increase in killings (of 14 and 8 percent, respectively). Philadelphia recorded its first homicide of 2019 less than 20 minutes into the new year.

In addition to the community burden of widespread gun violence, Garrett Harley’s report also notes the monetary drain that gun homicides have on city finances: Each gun murder — there were more than 290 last year — costs taxpayers roughly $1.42 million in in the form of medical and legal fees, property damage, and lost earnings.

City officials said they would invest some $4.4 million over the next six months to begin implementing the new policies.

You can read the full report issued by the city here.

Additional reporting by Isabelle Chausse.