If 1967 was the Summer of Love in San Francisco, then 2022 in Philadelphia was the Summer of Mayhem.
The gun violence was relentless. Shootings occurred every day of the week and at any given hour of the day. Most shootings have occurred in North and West Philadelphia, but every corner of our city has been impacted.
The bullets spared no one. A baby girl was shot. A 4-year-old boy was shot. Scores of teenagers were shot. Pregnant women were shot. Elderly men were shot. A college student was shot. Police officers were shot.
People were shot in broad daylight or while out having fun. One young man was shot during rush hour on a subway platform near City Hall. Another was shot while playing basketball with friends. A mass shooting on South Street left three dead and injured 11 others.
Every major summer holiday was marred by shootings. At least 44 people were shot over Memorial Day weekend. Two police officers were shot during the July Fourth celebration along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. At least 30 people were shot and nine died over Labor Day weekend.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, more than 750 people were shot in Philadelphia, including more than 150 fatally.
Philly’s gun violence epidemic reaches a perilous new low as a 7-year-old is shot while playing video games — Editorial
With 373 homicides so far this year, the city is on pace to surpass last year’s record of 562 murders. Philadelphia has already topped the annual number of murders in any single year from 2008 to 2019. Overall, more than 1,600 people have been shot this year.
More troubling, there appears to be no major new effort to combat the sharp rise in gun violence. Mayor Jim Kenney has had very little to say publicly since his comments after the July 4 shootings about being “happy” when he is no longer mayor so he could “enjoy some stuff.”
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw issued a generic tweet after five juveniles were arrested following a shooting near 10th and Market Streets that promised that “those who take part in violent behavior will be apprehended.” That was less than reassuring given nearly half of the murders last year remain unsolved.
To be sure, what’s happening in our city is also occurring in communities across the country. One complicating factor in Philadelphia has been that efforts by local officials to pass gun safety laws have been thwarted by legislators in Harrisburg.
Kenney and other city leaders met with federal officials last month behind closed doors to discuss ways to reduce gun violence. But it remains unclear if any new efforts to address the gun crisis emerged from the meeting.
The city’s budget earmarked $208 million to combat gun violence, but an analysis by City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart found most of the initiatives would take at least five years to produce results. The Mayor’s Office disputed the analysis, but Rhynhart said the Kenney administration has not released any data to show if existing anti-violence programs work.
Other cities, including New York and Los Angeles, are spending more on intervention efforts, while the Dallas police chief implemented a comprehensive plan to reduce violent crime — something Outlaw could do.
At the very least, Kenney must do more to lead and unify the city in the face of the gun crisis. He should use his bully pulpit to appeal to business leaders, church groups, and nonprofits for help to address the shootings. He could shame Republican lawmakers in Harrisburg who control the General Assembly to do more to combat gun violence. He could also engage the public, seek their help, and try to calm residents’ fears.
Leadership, urgency, and creativity are all needed. Doing more of the same thing is not an option.
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