Philadelphia devises plan to reduce community gun violence
- Philadelphia has released a comprehensive action plan, The Philadelphia Roadmap to Safer Communities, to address increasing gun violence throughout the city. This comes as a result of Mayor Jim Kenney's September call to action in which he asked for solutions aside from policing, namely looking at gun violence from a public health perspective and using data and science to inform strategies.
- A working group with representatives from multiple agencies offered short- and long-term recommendations including addressing the physical and programmatic inequities that exist in the communities at the highest risk of violence; creating a gun violence focused Injury Prevention Unit within the Department of Health; and implementing the police department's new "Operation Pinpoint," which combines intelligence-based and community-oriented policing.
- Recommendations will help inform the mayor's and city council's decisions for the FY 2020 budget and Five Year Plan.
Health used to be widely viewed as an individual's responsibility and something that pertains to illnesses and ailments that a doctor can remedy, but many outside factors can also play into a person's health. While many people might consider a "public health crisis" only pertinent to communicable diseases like the flu or measles, the medical community has a broader definition that includes non-traditional forces that negatively impact a large number of citizens' health or mortality.
Cities increasingly are connecting dots and realizing that problems that used to be solved in silos contribute to citizens' health — or lack thereof — and are seeking solutions from a public health perspective. For example, Austin, TX has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for an epidemiological study on dockless scooters in light of a spike in injuries and deaths among device users. Philadelphia's decision to address violent crimes, specifically gun violence, from a public health perspective similarly follows the collaborative approach that could help leaders think outside the box and discover new solutions.
Data indicates crime dropped across the U.S. last year, and while Philadelphia was part of that trend, it didn't experience a drop as significant as most other major cities. The crime rate only decreased 0.4% in Philadelphia whereas the average was 1.8% for the 30 largest U.S. cities; cities such as Chicago and Baltimore that have fielded criticism in recent years for crime spikes experienced violent crime decreases of 9.5% and 12.3%, respectively.
“We cannot police our way out of this problem... But, with the right strategy and tools, one that incorporates and aligns intelligence-based and community-oriented policing with targeted social services and community empowerment, we believe that we can prevent and reduce gun violence in our communities,” Vanessa Garrett Harley, the city's deputy managing director for criminal justice and public safety, said in a statement.
One of the main areas of focus included in the roadmap is on an often forgotten sector of the population: previously incarcerated individuals. The plan aims to increase support for previously incarcerated citizens who are under supervision or working to reintegrate into society, as well as for the families of those individuals. Offering help to those people could reduce recidivism, which known to contribute to a large proportion of crimes.
Follow Katie Pyzyk on Twitter