U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, D-3rd District. (Image via the Philadelphia Tribune).
By Brian Saunders
PHILADELPHIA — U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans says he wants to end Philadelphia’s epidemic of gun violence. And he has a plan.
On Thursday, Evans, D-3rd District, was set to release a multi-pronged, multi-billion-dollar, federally funded program aimed at addressing the continuous threat of gun violence in Pennsylvania’s largest city.
“In Philadelphia, the average gun-related homicide costs the city $1.4 million for expenses such as medical response, property damage, public safety, criminal justice system, and lost earnings,” Evans said in his plan. “Additionally, non-fatal shootings cost Philadelphia taxpayers over $45,000 per-shooting.11 Using these numbers, the 498 fatal shootings and 1,834 non-fatal shootings in 2021 cost Philadelphia almost $780 million in just one year.”
In 2021 there were 562 homicides and over 1,800 non-fatal shootings. So far, in 2022, there have been 142 homicides and 504 non-fatal shooting incidents.
The seven-point initiative calls for:
- Encouraging the use of evidence-based strategies by local law enforcement agencies.
- Investing $1 billion in local police departments to increase clearance levels for fatal and non-fatal shootings.
- Investing $40 billion in employment and workforce development agencies and organizations.
- Investing $5 billion in community-based violence intervention initiatives.
- Increasing resources for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the U.S. Marshals Service to prevent and respond to gun violence.
- Investing $5 billion to reduce blight and improve city environments.
- Increasing coordination and collaboration of federal, state, and local agencies and organizations.
According to Evans’ plan, evidence-based strategies should focus on hotspot areas. An investment in holding intervention groups with criminals and including family members and victims’ families. The plan also suggests community support, availability, and access to programming that deters people from making criminal decisions and a community-based board to review progress and performance measures.
“Deterrence may include information on the penalties and negative impacts on the individual and their peers for engaging in violent behavior,” Evans said in his plan. “Research has shown that focusing on dissuading groups from participating in criminal behavior is more effective than strategies that are strictly focused on deterring individuals.”
According to Evans, 2 percent of Philadelphia is known for involvement in 80% of the city’s gun violence, so he suggests a targeted hotspot approach.
“This type of directed policing may be more effective and have the least negative impact on community members when paired with problem-oriented policing (POP),” Evan’s said in his plan. However, to deploy these strategies, he says grants will be needed.
Like Evans, District Attorney Larry Krasner also has called for technology investment to help the struggling clearance rate. The inability to clear shooting cases is a nationwide problem. According to Evans, as America’s 2020 murder rate rose, the clearance rate fell by seven percent.
Philadelphia only cleared 22 percent of its shooting in 2020.
“That is why I am co-leading the VICTIM (Violent Incident Clearance and Technological Investigative Methods) Act with [Democratic U.S Rep.] Val Demings of Florida,” Evans said. “The bill would authorize $100 million per year for ten years.”
The VICTIM Act would allow the Philadelphia Police Department to hire and retain more detectives to investigate shootings.
“This funding and this bill would give police departments the resources they need to solve more shootings,” said Evans.
According to Evans, the unemployment gap between Black people and white people is 3.2 % in the first quarter of 2022.
“Increasing employment opportunities for at-risk youth and adults is critical in reducing gun violence,” Evans said. “Several employment models have shown success in reducing gun violence.”
Evans said investing $40 billion into workforce systems—including workforce boards, American Workforce Centers, state and local agencies, and employment and training grantees in communities with a higher concentration of gun violence would reduce gun violence. The funding would come from the Build Back Better Act.
Also, through the Build Back Better Act, there is a $5 billion investment in community-based violence interventions initiatives.
“The funding would be used to support evidence-informed intervention strategies to reduce community violence,” Evans said.
The initiatives would include:
- Hospital-based violence intervention programs and connecting people to services
- Philadelphia Ceasefire/Cure Violence: Trusted messengers and violence interruption
Evans’ fifth step is increasing collaboration and coordination of federal law enforcement agencies. This would come from increased funding in President Biden’s proposed budget.
Evans’ $5 billion investment to improve city environments. This plan is similar to one proposed by Philadelphia Councilmember Helen Gym aimed at improving livability in Philadelphia.
According to Evans, Philadelphia is one of the top 25 most segregated cities. Using a 1937 map of Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC), Evans highlights areas marked as “unworthy” of economic investment.
Those areas are where most of today’s gun violence occurs.
“The relationship between areas of high gun violence and certain types of city residents can be understood as a result of intergenerational segregation, redlining, and socio-economic exclusion,” Evans said.
Evans would like to create green spaces, increase street lighting, and fund housing repairs.
“Funding of $250 million per-year, for 10 years, for $5 billion, would go to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to create a grant program for local partnerships to implement neighborhood revitalization measures in economically distressed and underinvested areas,” Evans said.
Evans highlighted research done from 2006 to 2013 suggesting that repairing homes of low-income families in Philly through the Basic Systems Repair Program (BSRP) led to a 22 percent reduction in crime.
“Improving environments has shown to increase socialization with neighbors, and strong community relations have been associated with a reduction in crime,” Evan said.
Evans’ final point speaks to collaboration. He wants federal, state, and local appointed officials to work together with city organizations and agencies instead of silos.
“To ensure we are effectively identifying and helping individuals at risk for gun violence, we need the coordination and collaboration of all services relating to health, housing, employment, legal resources, education, and much more,” he said.
Evans refers to the Philly Hub, created by the director of Philadelphia Ceasefire, Marla Davis Bellamy, with over 100 different organizations. However, he said they need more funding.
“The Hub needs more avenues for funding, as it operates with very few personnel and cannot keep up with the number of referrals,” Evans said. “The Hub also needs regular participation from all relevant agencies and organizations to be most effective in preventing gun violence.”
Evans said turning the city around will take collaboration from everyone, federal, state, local, and Philadelphia communities.
Brian Saunders is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.
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