Both Mr. Michael A. Nutter and Mr. Jim Kenney became Philadelphia’s chief executive at a time where a dark cloud of concern about increased gun violence loomed over City Hall. The cries of the people in 2007 and 2008 couldn’t be ignored, something radical needed to be done to protect life and ensure liberty for law-abiding folk, which makes up the majority of Philadelphia’s population.
Mr. Nutter made a decision: declare a crime emergency and request of his police commissioner a crime fighting strategy, which was authored by Mr. Charles Ramsey and made public on January 30th, 2008. For that time, the strategy appeared to be deemed radical; it, like now with Mr. Donald Trump, called for an aggressive yet lawful stop-and-frisk program (it wasn’t), among other things, like increased recreational opportunities through the PAL program, cleaning up neighborhoods by boarding-up abandoned homes and enforcing a curfew for youth.
More than eight years later, homicides in 2016 are up roughly 10 percent, and there were 40 more homicides in 2015 than in 2014.
Unlike Mr. Nutter, Mr. Kenney has disavowed Gestapo-style policing but rather embraced lawful pedestrian stops. However, Mr. Kenney, like in 2008, has a focus on recreation though he differs in the acknowledgment of poverty. Indeed, the 2008 crime fighting strategy was absent of any mention of poverty or any coordination with the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, yet it did tout its goal for inter-agency collaboration with institutions like the School District of Philadelphia.
Despite the cloud of concern, the Kenney Administration hasn’t released a formal crime fighting strategy and the current police commissioner, Mr. Richard Ross, hasn’t, in a meaningful way, addressed the public regarding the increase in homicides.
Mr. Kenney’s narrative on violence is rather consistent: he can’t halt the flow of guns and feels abandoned by Harrisburg, so what he can control is an attempt to deliver quality pre-K, to ensure students have a good start in life, and recreational opportunities, which offer youth an alternative to the streets.
The aforementioned are honorable intentions, suggested State Senator Vincent Hughes, yet they still aren’t enough, though he isn’t sure what is.
Senator Hughes yesterday afternoon at City Hall, after hearing an emotional plea from a mother who had lost her son to gun violence, said we need a radical approach to solving this problem. When I caught up with him in the hallway to give him the chance to elaborate, he had no specifics, and he admitted as much earlier during his speech.
Mr. Anton Moore, a South Philadelphia based community activist who spoke at the Democratic National Convention about gun violence, also wasn’t sure what the radical approach would be, but did assert that he doesn’t feel that the City is doing enough to build relationships with the main actors, the small cohort of criminals who cause or influence the majority of chaos.
Maybe the most radical idea thus far was repeated Thursday afternoon during the press conference organized by Mothers in Charge: treat homicides as a public health issue, suggested Dorothy Johnson-Speight, the group’s Executive Director, before introducing three men in hazmat suits who held signs repeating the suggestion.
Also a champion of the idea is Ms. Helen Ubinas, a Daily News columnist who I interviewed about gun violence in June on black talk radio station 900am-WURD.
It’s not clear what the labeling effort would do other than draw more attention to the problem of gun violence and garner research grants to solve it, but nonetheless, it is the most radical narrative on the subject matter floating around the mainstream in Philadelphia.
In a City so big, and for a problem so long-standing, one might assume that bureaucrats would be inundated with radical suggestions on reducing homicides. That doesn’t appear to be the case, though. Instead, city officials seem somewhat lost yet continuously searching.
For sure, something radical must be done, and children and adults alike deserve to roam safe streets, but until it’s understood how such a reality can be obtained and maintained, that dark cloud of concern will remain hovered over City Hall and it may grow bigger by the day.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
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Photos courtesy of the author.