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City Council members talk about gun violence efforts in Philadelphia

By Brian Saunders

PHILADELPHIA CREAM – Councilman Jamie Gauthier, D-3rd District, recalled a traumatic experience involving gunfire during Thursday’s city council session.

Leaving a banquet for We Embrace Fatherhood, a community organization, Gauthier and a friend heard gunshots ring out last weekend.

“We waited for the end of the shooting, we leaned on the floor of my car,” Gauthier said. “There were so many shots. And to be honest, I thought the bullets were going to hit the car. I thought we were going to die that day. But all I could do was pray and wait for the shooting to stop. And by the grace of God, we remained unscathed and managed to escape.

Gauthier shared his experience not out of pity, but to highlight just how out of control gun violence in Philadelphia has gotten over the past two years.

Since January 1, 2020, there have been 1,175 homicides in Philadelphia, and 1,032 were firearm-related. Gauthier said his first-hand experience reminded him of the trauma Philadelphians go through on a daily basis. In 2022 alone, there were 465 gunshot victims and 114 homicides.

Gauthier said she has friends who are considering leaving town — an option not everyone can afford.

“If you can’t afford to move and you feel trapped in a place where you’re afraid to go out or let your kids play in the park, that’s an injustice. And it’s a failure of our city to serve its people,” said Gauthier.

She asked why the city didn’t cover blocks where gun crime is more concentrated with trauma support, youth programs and conflict resolution programs.

“We need a broader crisis response in Mantua and similar neighborhoods around the city,” Gauthier said. “Our community crisis intervention program is a good start. But 54 crisis responders can’t handle the volume of a city that hit 562 homicides in 2021. And that’s on track to see more in 2022. We need crisis responders marching in those individual blocks 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We know what works. We know the exact places that need these interventions.

City Council member Isaiah Thomas agreed with Gauthier, saying there needed to be a heightened sense of urgency in deploying resources against gun violence.

Council Member Cherelle Parker, D-9th District, said she will announce a neighborhood public safety and community policing plan in the coming weeks.

Parker said Philadelphia needs a holistic approach to addressing gun violence and all of the underlying issues associated with why it occurs.

Parker pointed out that community members have noted the need for bike patrols and foot officers in neighborhoods.

“Every Philadelphian, every neighborhood in the city of Philadelphia deserves public safety and a provision of community police and law enforcement presence in their neighborhood,” Parker said.

Councilman Curtis Jones said City Council, as the governing body, has the unique opportunity to review the city’s budget and see how productive past allocations to departments have been.

“We are about to review the budget,” Jones said. “We are about to look at the production of the money that we appropriated last year so that we can see what works, what needs to be changed, what we can just drop not to work. and allocating money to programs that work but need to scale It’s okay if a program works a little, but it’s not good when it can’t hit the numbers it should have to do a difference with armed violence.

Councilmember Cindy Bass, D-8th District, added that one of the fundamental issues in the city of Philadelphia right now is that people just don’t feel safe.

“I’m looking forward to the next budget season so we can talk about it and have these kinds of conversations about real investing,” Bass said.

Mayor Jim Kenney will deliver his budget speech on March 31.