Philadelphia City Hall (Adobe Stock/The Philadelphia Gay News)
By Stephen Williams
PHILADELPHIA — As gun violence continues to plague the city, many voters say they don’t feel safe and want to next mayor to address this issue.
Most of the candidates running for mayor have said they would declare some type of state of emergency, in order to better coordinate city departments and concentrate the necessary resources on the problem.
The Philadelphia Tribune asked candidates to submit their public safety plans, which we summarized. Some plans were posted on their websites.
Rickey Duncan, the executive director of the NOMO Foundation, said any plan by the next mayor needs to be solution-based and should be related to the work that community groups are already doing.
“We need them to work with people that are already getting it done. There are no quick fixes,” Duncan said. “At the end of the day this is something that needs a plan. This is not something we can put a band aid on. This is something that requires surgery and rehabilitation for years to come. This is not a video game we can’t press pause or reset. The violence that is taking place in Philadelphia is taking place in real time.”
NOMO is a nonprofit, early intervention program that works with at risk youth. It focuses on trauma informed care, workforce/ career development, financial literacy with locations in north, west and south Philadelphia.
In 2022, the city reported 516 homicides most of which were the result of gun violence, down 8% from the previous. But in 2012 the city had a record 562 homicides, also mostly from gun fire, according to police figures.
According to the City Controller’s office, 91% of people killed in 2022 were males and 79% of them were African American; and 47% were between the ages of 18 and 30.
Last week, former City Councilmember Derek Green released a plan that would create a $50 million Gun Violence Suppression Division in the police department that would be made up of city, state and federal officers, along with prosecutors, led by a proven top deputy. The division will include 100 city detectives and focus on the police districts were 90% of the shootings take place.
A former city prosecutor, Green also he would appoint a new police commissioner to replace Danielle Outlaw and try to circumvent the office of District Attorney Larry Krasner, when prosecuting people for illegal guns.
But Krasner said many people charged with carry guns illegally are released because of illegal searches. And he said a small percentage of them account for actual shootings. His office is focused on solving the crimes of shootings and murders, Krasner said.
“The most pressing issue facing our city is the threat of gun violence and the general fear that Philadelphia is not safe,” said Green, who said he has discussed his plan with state and federal officials.
Also, Green’s plan also calls for officers to be required to do a certain amount of community service hours in the communities they serve.
On his website, state Rep. Amen Brown, D-Philadelphia, said as mayor, he would use a multi-pronged approach to the gun violence problem that would focus on prevention community investment and accountability.
“I plan to work with federal, state and local entities to ensure that we have the resources needed to invest in forensic services, technology and tactics, and trainings,” Brown said. “Victims and their families deserve justice as well.”
For his part, retired judge James DeLeon, said he would seek out community groups engaged in violence prevention program, mentorship and other services and create a Municipal Court Anti-violence Initiative that will also utilize the 57 Blocks Initiative, which focuses on those blocks with the most violence.
Former Councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sánchez’s Public Safety Plan calls for a “forensic review” of the estimated $800 million police budget; creating chief financial officer for the PPD; expanded civilian roles to address staffing shortages; coordinated effort to strengthen guns laws and system-wide criminal justice reform.
“My comprehensive public safety strategy re-imagines the role of all government departments, while transforming the police criminal legal system,” Quiñones-Sánchez said. “With training, equipment and innovation all city workers will contribute to the public safety mission.”
In addition, Quiñones-Sánchez said, her plan seeks an increase in traffic enforcement to reduce fatal accidents and address the unlicensed all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) on city streets; and reduce the number of abandoned vehicles. Quiñones-Sánchez also said she wants to improve 911 response time; have a fully staffed narcotics unit; along with increased bike, foot patrols and greater investment in the neighborhoods.
Helen Gym, former City Council member and teacher, said: “As mayor my job is ensure that every Philadelphian is safe and feels safe. It’s time to reclaim neighborhoods for our neighbors.”
Gym said she would enact a state of emergency on gun violence on day one and “convene all agencies in an all hands of deck effort,” to solve homicides and violent crime; direct interventions for individuals in the path of violence and provide support for victims.
Gym said her plan would do the following: add more police foot and bike patrols, community-based violence interrupters; improve response time for 911 calls; create safe routes for students traveling and leaving school; provide non-police mental health crisis units; address blight in the neighborhoods by improving street lighting, sealing vacant lots and towing abandoned cars.
Domb, a former Council member and real estate mogul, said in his first 100 days in office, he would implement a 10-point plan public safety that would do the following: declare a crime emergency on his first day in office; aggressively crack down on illegal guns; declare a public health emergency in Kensington; get illegal vehicles off the street; crack down on retail theft and repeat offenders; increase penalties for violence against city workers; triple funding for recruitment of police officers; expand programs to protest against violence based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity; install cameras at every high school, increase coordination with school leaders and clean every vacant lot, seal every abandoned building.
“These 10 actions will have an immediate impact on violent crime and begin to restore the sense of law and order in the city,” according to Domb’s website. Domb said he would pay for these efforts by using the city’s financial budget surplus and any remaining funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.
As of Dec. 30, the city of Philadelphia will have a projected fund balance of $660 million, which means that either more revenue came in than expected or obligations were less than expected, according to the Quarterly City Manager’s Report.
The Tribune was unable to reach candidate Warren Bloom by press time. We did not get responses for plans from supermarket owner Jeff Brown or former councilmember Cherelle Parker, who are also running by press time.
Stephen Williams is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.
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.