Bailey: Gun violence should be getting more attention in mayoral race
To date this year, there have been 212 homicides, most of the victims caught on the receiving end of a bullet. That’s not to ignore the thousands of additional firearm assaults that, at worse, left several seriously injured, and at best, left numerous Philadelphia neighborhoods steeped deeper in fear.
The numbers are down when you compare them, as the Philadelphia Police Department does, with the bloody 2007 figures. But homicides are up by about a dozen from this time last year, and Republican mayoral nominee Melissa Murray Bailey says that it’s time the issue takes the spotlight.
On Friday, Bailey held a press conference at a park on 8th and Diamond Streets in North Philadelphia, the scene of a drive-by shooting last week that sprayed some three dozen bullets throughout the scene.
“People in this neighborhood are afraid to come out of their house because of the violence that’s happening, and nobody’s been asking us throughout this race, what are we going to do about it?”
This isn’t an out-of-thin-air platform for Bailey. This summer, she attended a prayer vigil for yet another victim of gun violence in North Philadelphia where she promised to address the issue in further detail. Bailey, who lives in Society Hill, said shootings happen all over the city (including the playground her daughter frequents), but gun violence by and large plagues “neighborhoods where people aren’t going.”
Anti-gun violence activists Melissa Taylor and Terry Sparks stood in support of Bailey on Friday. A reporter asked Sparks, who says he built the Philadelphia CeaseFire program, why he supports Bailey. Sparks responded in part with criticism for Democratic mayoral nominee Jim Kenney.
“I love Jim [Kenney],” Sparks said. “But Jim ain’t out here in the streets...Me and Melissa have been on crime scenes.”
In the crowded Democratic primary season, violent crime sat somewhat on the backburner. It was a consistent talking point of only one candidate, former State Sen. Milton Street, who came in last in the May election. But the remaining candidates did address the issue both in and beyond their policy proposals.
Kenney, the former City Councilman, responded to the claims the he is disconnected with the neighborhoods most crippled by violence.
“We never thought it was appropriate for Jim as a political candidate to intrude on an active crime scene,” Lauren Hitt, Kenney’s campaign spokesperson, said in an email Friday. “But he has met with victims of gun violence, including speaking at an event hosted by Philadelphia CeaseFire, a group which one of the activists at today's event is a member of. He was also in North Philadelphia just this past Wednesday blocks from where today's presser was held to meet with North Philadelphia ministers and discuss the issues affecting their community, including gun violence.”
Bailey promises to release a policy paper on public safety following Monday night’s debate. But she did give reporters a sneak-peek at her proposals to reduce violent crime. She said she would implement a mandatory eight hours of monthly community engagement for police officers, which will allow to them engage in positive community activities, “whether that is playing in a basketball league with the kids or working in after-school programs.” In addition, the city would hire community activists to take preventative action in areas with high crime.
In his public safety policy paper, which was released during the primary campaign, Kenney proposed to continue effective policymaking, encourage stronger police-community relations, as well as implement better crime-fighting technology like ShotSpotter.