PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Months after declaring Philadelphia's gun violence a public health emergency, the mayor presented a roadmap Thursday of broad goals to address the problem.
The initiatives unveiled by Mayor Jim Kenney take a public health approach to gun violence and aim to tackle poverty, invest in community groups and fund innovative policing tactics. He said his administration will commit $4.4 million to launching the initiatives over the next six months and will consider more funding in his budget proposal.
"We need a new approach," he said to the packed audience of officials, including the police commissioner, members of city council and community groups. "We must get away from the mindset that police can be the only answer to this problem."
Police data show there were 351 homicides in Philadelphia in 2018 — the most homicides in the city in over a decade.
Overwhelmingly, the victims tend to be young, black men in neighborhoods struggling with poverty. Philadelphia is the poorest big city in the country. Part of the plan looks at how to build a sense of connection, community and safety for young black men in those neighborhoods.
"The opposite of gun violence is opportunity," said Theron Pride, who helped craft the plan with Vanessa Garrett Harley, who heads up the city's criminal justice and public safety agency.
Kenney ordered his staff to come up with strategies to address the crisis in September.
City Councilman Curtis Jones lauded the set of initiatives, saying it might not be perfect but "for the first time in a long time, we have a game plan."
Chantay Love, who has been working on reducing gun violence and helping families suffering its after-effects, said she was heartened by the city's approach. City officials have met with a host of community groups, including Love's, to get input on their plan.
"There is more communication, they're taking more of a community approach, and they're throwing out some of the stuff that just isn't working," said Love, whose family started the support group Every Murder is Real after her brother Emir Greene was shot and killed in 1997. "I'm not marching again, I'm not holding up another sign to fight for something that is the moral, right thing to do."
For Brandon Jones, who works as a mentor to young people at risk of gun violence, said he has concerns about how the money will be spent, and how the city will allocate it. But overall he sees the initiatives as a sign that the city is moving forward on promises.