Commentary

Philly’s gun violence is ‘symptom’ of bigger problems, official says | Friday Morning Coffee

The city has to tackle issues of  poverty, education, and economic opportunity if it really wants to fix it

February 11, 2022 7:05 am

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

The Russian author Leo Tolstoy famously noted that “happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

It’s not a bad way to think about the gun violence epidemic that’s wracked some of America’s largest cities, including Philadelphia, even as the COVID-19 pandemic has exacted its own deadly toll.

Every city has its own problems, and challenges, but the causes behind gun violence — actual poverty and a poverty of opportunity — are remarkably the same.

That analogy rushed to mind as I read the comments of Erica Atwood, the senior director of Philadelphia’s Office of Policy and Strategic Initiatives for Criminal Justice and Public Safety.

“Gun violence is a symptom; it is not the overarching problem,” Atwood told Stateline.org, as part of a broader examination of how cities are reacting to the deadly explosions of violence within their borders.

“If we do not look at the issues of poverty, poor access to mental and behavioral health, poor access to quality education and training and economic mobility, we are going to continue to have these conversations every 15 to 20 years,” Atwood continued.

Philadelphia marked its deadliest year in recent memory in 2021, with 562 homicides and 2,332 total shootings, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune reported last month.

The City of Brotherly Love was one of 16 major U.S. cities that logged a rise in homicides in 2021, Stateline reported, citing data compiled by the Council on Criminal Justice.

All told, homicides rose by 5% last year, compared to 2020 tallies in the nearly two dozen cities the council analyzed, Stateline reported. The majority were shootings.

(Image via The Philadelphia Tribune)

Last year, Philadelphia released a roadmap aimed at addressing its gun violence challenges, Stateline reported. It provided specific neighborhoods and high-risk individuals with access to social services and conflict mediation intended to prevent future violence.

The city’s plan also calls for trimming the ranks of blighted properties. City officials also are working with the state to investigate and stop illegal gun trafficking. The plan further directs city police to target “hotspots” where gun violence is more frequent.

Atwood told Stateline that she expects the city’s homicide rate to drop as more of those policies are brought online — potentially reaching pre-pandemic levels by 2023. If there’s a bright spot, it’s that homicides are down slightly from this time last year at 53—a 15% reduction, Stateline reported.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Victor Martinez, a prominent Latino advocate from the Lehigh Valley, says he plans to file a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s new legislative maps, Stephen Caruso reports.

State agriculture officials said Thursday that they’re holding out hope for a long-term, legislative solution to a funding crisis at the financially imperiled Bureau of Dog Law EnforcementCassie Miller reports.

A small but influential group of Democratic senators is asking their colleagues for input on how best to overhaul the federal government’s cannabis laws, Capital-Star Washington Reporter Jennifer Shutt reports.

U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo.,  is leading a coalition of Black women members of the U.S. House in a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to pick a Black woman for the Supreme Court — which he has promised — who has a track record of protecting civil rightsCapital-Star Washington Reporter Ariana Figueroa reports.

En la Estrella-Capital: El USDA promete $1B para productos agrícolas ‘climáticamente inteligentes.’ El comité Senatorial de Pa. aprueba la legislación de reforma a autopistas de peaje.

On our Commentary Page this morning: Opinion regular Ray E. Landis says Gov. Tom Wolf won’t get all he wants in his last budget, but he can leave office knowing that he’s still moved Pa. forward. And obsessed with individual rights, Americans rush into disastrous decisionsJeromiah Taylor, writes in an op-ed first published by our sibling site the Kansas Reflector. 

(Capital-Star file)

Elsewhere.
Philadelphia progressives are picking candidates — and fights — in key state House races, the Inquirer reports.

Ice and and the expansion of a concrete support caused a Port Authority bridge to shift, the Post-Gazette reports.

Early work on the construction of the southern section of the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway in northern Pennsylvania has advancedPennLive reports.

The Lancaster County GOP will make endorsements in a quartet of key state House races this weekend, LancasterOnline reports.

A $10 million makeover is in the works for downtown Allentown, the Morning Call reports.

The Luzerne County Visitors’ Bureau is open for business in a new location, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

Masks will stay on in the Camden, N.J. schools even after the Garden State lifts its mandate, WHYY-FM reports.

WITF-FM looks at the assistance that Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget will deliver to nurses and mental health services.

Northern Pennsylvania Regional College has been left out of Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2022 budget proposal, and school officials are looking for answers, GoErie reports.

PoliticsPA looks at what’s next for state Sen. John Yudichak, I-Luzerne.

They don’t agree on much, but Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative Republicans should be able to get a deal on corporate tax cutsCity & State Pa. reports.

Capitol Hill staffer unions could force some members of Congress to walk the talk on labor issuesRoll Call reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

What Goes On
The desk is clear. Enjoy the silence.

WolfWatch
Gov. Tom Wolf heads to Upper Darby High School for an 11:30 a.m. newser touting the education spending in his budget proposal.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to the engine room of PennLiveDeb Erb Kiner celebrates another trip around the sun today. Huge congratulations to an old friend.

Heavy Rotation
Impossibly, Wilco’s seminal ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot‘ LP turns 20 years old this year, and the band is staging anniversary gigs in their hometown of Chicago and New York City to mark the occasion. Here’s my favorite song from a record full of classics. It’s the gorgeous ‘Jesus Etc.


Friday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
Carolina came roaring back after back-to-back losses to blank the Bruins 6-0 on Thursday night. The ‘Canes’ Sebastian Aho had two goals and goalie Frederik Anderson made 34 saves on the way to the win.

And now you’re up to date.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.

MORE FROM AUTHOR