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Mayor Kenney addresses the city's increase in violence at the Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network. Photo: David Maas / AL DÍA News
Mayor Kenney addresses the city's increase in violence at the Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network. Photo: David Maas / AL DÍA News

Mayor Kenney: Violence in Philadelphia is a ‘public health crisis’

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Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney directed his cabinet on Thursday to develop a plan within the next 100 days to “dramatically reduce the killings and shootings” in the city.

Speaking at the Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network in North Philadelphia, Kenney lamented the recent surge in killings over the summer, and called the issue a “public health crisis.”

“August was the worst month in a decade,” Mayor Kenney said. “It’s clear that urgent action is needed. Our police department, led by our great police commissioner and his command staff, is doing everything within its power to address the issue of violence in the city. But we recognized they cannot do it alone.”

“I have come to realize that the level of violence that we are experiencing is actually a public health crisis. It is not a crisis of crime; it involves crime, but it’s about public health.

Police department records show that there were 37 homicides during the time period from August 6 through Sept. 2, a 76 percent increase over the preceding four-week period.

As of Sept. 25, police have recorded 244 homicides this year, a 10 percent increase compared with the same date in 2017. These figures have risen steadily since 2014.

“Victims and offenders of firearm violence are most commonly young, non-Hispanic black and Hispanic males,” according to the Department of Public Health,

“For every life we lose, a little piece of us is lost, too. It’s the thing that drives me to the broken heart that I feel like I have every time I read or see on TV what happens,” Kenney said. “The children of our city are our children. They’re not those people’s children, not that neighborhood’s children, they’re our children, and we have a responsibility for every single one of them.”

The mayor pointed to the influx of guns and the opioid epidemic plaguing the city as the two key factors driving the uptick in violence.

“What’s thrown us off, what’s really put us out of whack, is the number of guns that are available in the community and the explosion of the opioid and heroin addiction.”

Joining Mayor Kenney at the event were City Council President Darrell Clarke, and Councilmembers Kenyatta Johnson and Curtis Jones.

“We didn’t get here overnight, it’s going to take a lot of work. We’re asking people to get mad, get as mad as we do when we turn on MSNBC or CNN and see that guy down in Washington saying something stupid,” Clarke said. “Get mad about the violence in our streets, get mad about what’s happening in our community.”

Vanessa Garrett Harley, the Deputy Managing Director for Criminal Justice and Public Safety, will lead the development of the violence reduction plan.

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