With 2K shootings, more than 500 dead, 2020 was the deadliest year on record in Philadelphia

A new report catalogues the tragic and bloody toll of gun violence in Pa.’s largest city

By: - January 31, 2022 10:26 am

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw joins Mayor Jim Kenney, far left (Philadelphia Tribune photo).

By Brian Saunders

PHILADELPHIA —  Last year was the deadliest year in modern Philadelphia history for gun violence, with 562 homicides and 2,332 total shootings, according to a recently released report.

The report by the 100 Shooting Review Committee was released last week, with data from over 2,000 shootings such as the source of the guns, prior criminal record of shooters, gun case dispositions, bail and recidivism.

Philadelphia City Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr., D-4th District, discussed the impending 100 shooting review in December as a project he was looking forward to releasing in 2022. The project was a collaborative effort of the City Council Committee on Public Safety and Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention and city law enforcement and public health leaders.

“What we have done today is pulled together a number of stakeholders to take a look at a problem, a crisis in the city of Philadelphia,” Jones said.

“And what is special about this gathering is not just the findings and recommendations that you’re going to have in this report. It is the level of collaboration between departments, the breaking down of silos of those departments to put a problem right at the center of the table and be willing to look at it from different lenses respecting those lenses, and coming up with solutions. So we decided to take the spotlight off of just the problem and put the searchlight on for the solutions,” Jones said.

Jones said that the review looked at how a perpetrator got to pulling a trigger. For the first time, Jones said he feels he and his council colleagues have risen this emergency to prominence where they’re putting all hands on deck and working together.

Samantha Williams, who serves as Jones’ director of legislation and policy, helped coordinate the project. She said that initially the project examined the last 100 shootings from September 2020. However, Williams said the committee quickly expanded the data to review over 2,000 shootings to understand better trends affecting the current state of gun violence in Philly.

“Through the dedicated work of the researchers, the data analysis, and staff members of these respective agencies, the committee has released this report which contains several evidence-based recommendations that we believe will have short-term and long-term impacts on future gun violence in Philadelphia,” Williams said.

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Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, D-2nd District, said that city leaders are working tirelessly every day to address gun violence.

Johnson, the chairman of City Council’s Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention, said the data suggest a large group of Philadelphia’s shooters were once victims of gun violence.

“One day, Commissioner (Danielle) Outlaw was giving a presentation, and the data revealed that a lot of our shooters were once victims of gun violence themselves,” Johnson said. “I’m going to say it again: The majority of our shooters were once victims of gun violence themselves. That shows us that we have to take a specific focus on those individuals who are most likely to kill or be killed here in the city of Philadelphia.”

Key findings from the report suggest that Black and brown men are most susceptible to gun violence. In addition, arguments cause 50% of the shootings, with 18% related to drug trafficking.

According to Chief Defender Keisha Hudson, 82% of the clients the Defender Association represents with pending first-degree felony charges had been victims of or witnessed a violent crime before they turned 18.

Key findings from the report suggest that Black and brown men are most susceptible to gun violence. In addition, arguments cause 50% of the shootings, with 18% related to drug trafficking.

One out of every four crime guns recovered was initially purchased outside of Pennsylvania. In 2000, fewer than 400,000 guns were sold in Pennsylvania; in 2020, over 1 million were sold.

Clearance rates for shooters are also low, according to the report. For example, from 2015 to 2020, there were 9,042 shootings, and only 2,132 were cleared.

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“As this review shows, focused and intentional collaboration among prosecutors and police yields stronger criminal cases, and I’m optimistic that consolidation of non-fatal and fatal shootings investigations across law enforcement agencies will improve case clearance and prosecutions,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said. “I want to thank Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr. and members of the 100 Shooting Review Committee for convening our public health and safety partners for this important project and for tasking us to continue working collaboratively toward a safer and more just Philadelphia.”

Based on the analysis and data, the review afforded some recommendations for solutions. However, it was noted that many of the recommendations would require additional funding.

The recommendations included:

  • People with tailored experiences develop strategies within their neighborhoods.
  • Investments into the investigative approach for law enforcement agencies such as forensics.
  • More staffing and availability.
  • Establishing courtrooms for illegal gun possession cases at the Common Pleas Courts.
  • An increased retention rate of victims and witnesses showing up in court.
  • More funding for relocation and witness protection.
  • Better legislation to require more information for gun purchases and deter straw purchasing.

The report also recommends intervention methods such as community and city leaders building trust within neighborhoods. There is also a suggestion that addressing environmental issues such as cleaning up trash within an area or improving street lighting reduces violent crimes.

In addition, the review offers preventative measures such as increasing foot patrols with an emphasis on community engagement with police officers.

Brian Saunders is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.

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