City Council members sound off on gun violence efforts in Philadelphia

Since Jan. 1, 2020, there have been 1,175 homicides in Philadelphia, and 1,032 were gun-related

By: - March 26, 2022 7:05 am

“The way that affordable housing policy has been handled over the years reflects a grave injustice to our communities, and to low-income residents in particular,” Councilmember Jamie Gauthier said (Philadelphia Tribune photo).

By Brian Saunders

PHILADELPHIA – Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, D-3rd District, recalled a traumatic experience involving gunfire during Thursday’s City Council session.

While leaving a banquet for We Embrace Fatherhood, a community organization, Gauthier and a friend heard gunshots ring off last weekend.

“We waited out the shooting, ducked down on the floor of my car,” Gauthier said. “There were so many shots. And to be honest, I thought the bullets were going to hit the car. I thought we were going to die that day. But all I could do was pray and wait for the shooting to stop. And by the grace of God, we were unharmed and managed to drive away.”

Gauthier shared her experience not for pity, but to highlight how out of control gun violence in Philadelphia has become over the past two years.

Since Jan. 1, 2020, there have been 1,175 homicides in Philadelphia, and 1,032 were gun-related. Gauthier said her firsthand experience reminds her of the trauma Philadelphians go through daily. Just in 2022, there have been 465 shooting victims and 114 homicides.

Gauthier said she has friends who are considering moving away from the city — an option that not everyone can afford.

“If you can’t afford to move and feel trapped in a place where you feel scared to go outside or let your kids play at the park, that’s an injustice. And it’s a failure of our city to serve its people,” Gauthier said.

She asked why the city is not blanketing the blocks where gun crime is more concentrated with trauma support, youth programs and conflict resolution programs.

“We need expanded crisis response in Mantua and neighborhoods like it around the city,” Gauthier said. “Our community Crisis Intervention Program is a great start. But 54 crisis responders cannot manage the volume of a city that reached 562 homicides in 2021. And that is on pace to see more in 2022. We need crisis responders walking these individual blocks 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We know what works. We know the exact locations that need these interventions.”

At-large City Councilmember Isaiah Thomas agreed with Gauthier, saying that there needs to be an intensified sense of urgency in deploying gun violence resources.

Councilmember Cherelle Parker, D-9th District, said she would announce a neighborhood public safety and community policing plan in the coming weeks.

Parker said that Philadelphia needs a holistic approach to addressing gun violence and all of the underlying issues associated with why it is occurring.

Parker emphasized community members have noted the need for bike patrol and on-foot officers in neighborhoods.

“Every Philadelphian, every neighborhood in the city of Philadelphia deserves public safety and a provision of the presence of community policing and law enforcement in their neighborhood,” Parker said.

Councilmember Curtis Jones said City Council as a governing body has the unique opportunity to review the city budget and see how productive past allocations to departments have been.

“We’re poised to review the budget,” Jones said. “We’re poised to review the production of the money that we appropriated last year so that we can see what is working, what needs to be tweaked, what we can just kind of drop off to not working, and allocate money to programs that are working but need to come to scale. It’s OK if a program is working a little bit, but it is not OK when it can’t touch the numbers that it should to make a difference with gun violence.”

Councilmember Cindy Bass, D-8th District, added that one of the fundamental problems in the city of Philadelphia right now is that people just don’t feel safe.

“I look forward to this upcoming budget season so that we can talk about that and have those kinds of conversations about really investing,” Bass said.

Mayor Jim Kenney will deliver his budget address March 31.

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

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