Philly Mayor Jim Kenney, City Council agree to anti-gun violence cash

Vanessa Garrett Harley, Deputy Managing Director, Criminal Justice & Public Safety and Mayor Jim Kenney discuss preventive initiatives aimed at reducing gun violence and gun trauma (Philadelphia Tribune photo by Abdul Sulayman)

By John N. Mitchell

PHILADELPHIA — Mayor Jim Kenney announced plans on Wednesday for the transfer of more than $5 million to assist in a pair of plans aimed at staving off gun violence and reacting swiftly to it in areas of the city affected by gun violence.

“All of us in city government — including our colleagues in City Council — recognize the need for additional, immediate steps to be added to our plan that address that urgency,” Kenney said.

The transfer, which requires approval from City Council, was endorsed by Council President Darrel Clarke, who attended the City Hall press conference, adding that City Council “stands ready to work with the mayor, the District Attorney’s Office, the police” and others to reduce and prevent gun violence in the city.

The initiatives, Group Violence Intervention and Rapid Response Outreach, are aimed at both reducing gun violence and providing support to communities in the immediate aftermath of gun violence.

Kenney’s announcement follows City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart’s release of a report highlighting the effectiveness of the initiatives in other cities, such as Oakland, Calif., and New Orleans, La.

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The city unveiled a plan to address gun violence in January called the Philadelphia Roadmap to Safer Communities. It approaches gun violence as a public health issue to be addressed by multiple city agencies as opposed to solely policing.

The city is working with the the District Attorney’s effort to re-launch a focused deterrence effort known as “Group Violence Intervention,” a crime reduction strategy focusing on high-risk individuals and hot spots. In 2013, the city experienced 76 fewer homicides than the year before. Many city officials have attributed that decrease to focused deterrence.

Rapid Response Outreach is when counselors and representatives of other city agencies respond to an area where gun violence has occurred to provide immediate trauma support, connect victims with long-term counseling, address blight and infrastructure issues, and provide other social services.

City Managing Director Brian Abernathy pointed to the recent shooting in West Philadelphia that left four families dead and the shootout in North Philadelphia in which six officers were shot as examples of the city practicing Rapid Response Outreach.

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“Communities that witness gun violence need immediate support, particularly in the wake of large-scale incidents such as the murder of the four residents in one West Philadelphia home last month, or where the victims are children,” Abernathy said. “The shootout on 15th Street marked the first mobilization of city resources in this way and we will continue to mobilize when tragedy strikes.”

The transfer ordinance earmarks $3.88 million for the Managing Director’s Office to improve existing anti-violence initiatives, $1.2 million to Licenses and Inspections for blight remediation, and $300,000 to the Streets Department for lighting upgrades.

John N. Mitchell is a reporter and columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.