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Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images
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Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro visits Kensington to discuss his approach to the opioid crisis

The PA Attorney General recognizes that tackling the community's opioid conflict will require more than strong law enforcement alone.

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Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro spoke Tuesday night about his efforts to combat the opioid crisis in Kensington during a community gathering at Impact Services arranged by the City of Philadelphia.

The attorney general began by emphasizing that his top priority is keeping Pennsylvanians safe, acknowledging that, “the greatest threat right now in Pennsylvania is the heroin, fentanyl, and opioid crisis that we are facing.”

Shapiro referenced that approximately 15 Pennsylvanians are lost each day to opioid overdose and approximately 1,200 Philadelphians each year. “I am not going to sit back and allow that to continue,” he told community members.

The attorney general sees addiction as a disease, not a crime, and believes solutions to the epidemic will require a holistic approach.

“We have got to focus on a robust law enforcement operation and we have got to focus on making sure that we have treatment in our communities,” he said.

Through the Kensington Initiative, Shapiro is working in collaboration at federal, state and local law enforcement levels to target criminal drug “hotspots” in the neighborhood. Last month the Kensington Initiative made headlines when it arrested 11 people in connection with organized drug trafficking in the area.

But criminal prosecution is only the first step, according to Shapiro. The attorney general wants to address the deeper “quality of life” issues that affect Kensington.

He told the audience that his team is making, “a concerted effort to focus on hot spots in our community that are paralyzing lives, that are making it so that moms can’t walk their kids to school and kids can’t come out and play.”

While his office is working with the Philadelphia Police Department to enforce criminal justice and promote safety at ground level, Shapiro also stressed the importance of social services that he is working with city leadership to provide.

The attorney general pointed out collaborations with Mayor Jim Kenney and Managing Director Brian Abernathy, as well as Councilmembers Maria Quiñones-Sánchez and Mark Squilla, as key parts of a multifaceted approach to support the community.

“We’re going to see the rise of Kensington,” he concluded, “because of strong law enforcement combined with caring, heartfelt social services that are going to come in and make a difference.”

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