Philadelphia is on pace to see a record number of homicides and shootings this year, and police are on track to confiscate a record number of guns from crime scenes, Mayor Jim Kenney and other city officials said Wednesday at a news conference on the city’s surge in gun violence.
As of midnight Tuesday, the city had recorded 103 homicides, up 30% from the same time last year, and 13 of the victims were under the age of 18. There have been 412 victims of nonfatal shootings so far this year, up from 258 last year, and 40 of the victims were minors. Meanwhile, 690 people have been arrested for illegal possession of guns this year, up from 355 last year, the officials said during a virtual meeting.
Kenney, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, and other city officials pledged to work more closely together on stepped-up efforts to make the city safer, but they announced no new programs or policies to immediately address the crisis.
“It makes me absolutely sick to know that so many Philadelphians have suffered these preventable deaths,” Kenney said. “It’s painfully clear that we must take new approaches.”
The mayor had pledged last week to begin holding biweekly news conferences on gun violence after four people were shot, two fatally, while making a music video in Overbrook Park on Thursday afternoon. That same day, three teens were shot, one fatally, while playing basketball at the Christy Recreation Center in West Philadelphia.
On Wednesday, Outlaw joined Kenney in decrying the violence.
“We are all responsible for what goes on here. This is our community and these are our children,” the commissioner said.
Across the city, police are making more arrests for illegal gun possession. The department’s Southwest Division has had the most such arrests so far this year: 189, up from 102 at this time last year. The Northwest Division made 176 arrests, up from 81, and the East Division saw 153 arrests, up from 71, said Deputy Police Commissioner Joel Dales.
The number of guns used in crimes recovered by police so far this year stands at 1,270. At that rate, Outlaw said, about 6,000 guns will be seized by the end of the year, which “would shatter last year’s record” of 4,989 guns taken off streets, she said.
“It’s obvious that despite our officers’ tremendous efforts we continue to be plagued by gun violence,” she said. “This is not simply a policing problem. Turning this around will require the help of our entire community and our city stakeholders.”
She asked those with tips about homicides to leave them on the department website www.phillyunsolvedmurders.com. “We will not take a passive stance on what’s going on here in Philadelphia. Our neighbors, our mothers, our fathers, our brothers, our sisters, aunts, uncles, our children are dying,” the commissioner said.
Kenney called the number of illegal guns on the city’s streets “irrational and crazy.”
“It seems that the supply continues to exceed our ability to get them out of people’s hands,” he said. “We need some help, not only from the state, but from the federal government to slow the flow and availability of weaponry that people get their hands on.”