Philly’s new anti-violence plan funds police departments, youth shelters and environmental improvements. Supporters say strong implementation will be key | Local News

The City of Philadelphia’s $5.8 billion budget for 2023 includes $184 million for gun violence initiatives, as well as an increase of nearly $30 million for the Philadelphia Police Department. Violence prevention plan emphasizes a combination of law enforcement strategies, environmental improvements, youth programs and victim assistance to reduce the growing number of homicides in the city .

While there are promises for new initiatives, such as support for youth involved in criminal justice and behavioral health services for would-be shooters, many residents are looking for more urgency and investment given the the scale of the crisis.

There have been just over 1,100 shooting victims in Philadelphia this year, and about a fifth of them have died from gunshot wounds. Homicides hit a record 562 in the city last year, and 85% were caused by firearms.

Following a mass shooting in early June that injured 11 people and killed three on South Street, gun violence activists continued to demonstrate in the streets and meet with members of city council to criticize what they see as a failure to effectively stop the bloodshed.

Victoria Wylie, who coordinates a support group to shoot survivors in honor of her brother Donte Wylie, said the city’s investments in violence prevention in recent years have not gone far enough.

“When we make small investments, it’s this idea that ‘we gave them something,'” she said. “We appreciate ‘the something’, but we want everything. We need what we need to change things.

The mayor’s office said in a statement that the 2023 budget will continue to address the root causes of gun violence “through a range of strategies focused on community empowerment, jobs and careers, healing , prevention and safe havens for children and young people”.

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, chairman of the city council’s special committee on the prevention of gun violence, said the budget is not an overnight solution to the crisis. It is an ongoing three-pronged approach involving prevention, intervention and enforcement.

“It doesn’t have to be a choice or a choice,” he said. “It can be an ‘and’.”

Here is a breakdown of some of the main themes of the city’s 2023 plan for gun violence prevention.

Police

The Philadelphia Police Department originally requested a $23.7 million increase in its budget, primarily to fund contractually mandated salary increases. The city council introduced additional funding for police recruitment and a community policing strategy.

Based on Kenney’s initial proposal alone, the city’s spending on policing per person would be $476, an increase of $26 per person from 2016. This compares to $42 per person for parks and recreation and $35 per person for libraries, which many activists consider significant. components of armed violence prevention.

Emily DeCarlo, director of youth violence awareness at the Philadelphia nonprofit Anti-Violence Partnership, said police are important, but they don’t build community the way community centers do. and libraries.

“Prevention actually includes things like youth programs, including things like schools, including things like parks and recreation and youth programs outside of school hours,” he said. she declared. “We have to find the right balance for that.”

The city’s investment plan released this spring outlines several ongoing programs involving law enforcement aimed at addressing violence:

The Group Violence Intervention program, which works with those involved in violence and with law enforcement to discourage criminal behavior. The program will grow from three to 12 case managers. Many criminal justice experts consider this an evidence-based public health approach to gun violence.

Police-assisted diversion, which diverts low-level, non-violent offenders from the criminal justice system to support services, will expand to the Northeast Police Division.

The department will launch a review of firearm homicides and expand the review of non-fatal shootings, to examine the causes of shootings and identify trends and responses.

The city continues to implement its Operation Pinpoint program, which concentrates police departments in “hotspot” areas affected by violence. The police department says homicides were down 11% and gunshot victims were down 6% in those areas as of June 19, compared to a year earlier. Some research supports this policing strategy, but overall, research on increasing policing is mixed, and many experts say there are better ways to reduce gun crime.

Environmental improvements

The city council added $28 million to the budget for “placemaking efforts,” which it hopes will reduce crime by improving the quality of life at the neighborhood level. Some research has shown a correlation between interventions such as home repairs and greening vacant lots and reducing crime.

These environmental investments include:

$5 million for the expansion of the Community Enhancement Program

$1 million for licensing and inspections Clean and seal, demolitions

$2 million for abandoned vehicles

$2 million for open dumping

Terrill Haigler, a former sanitation worker who now advocates for environmental improvements as violence prevention under the nickname “YaFavTrashman,” said he was excited about the additional funding for the CLIP program, which helps members of the community to organize their own clean-up events.

“Your environment affects you emotionally and mentally, so you wake up to dirt every day,” he said. “There will only be a negative effect on a mentality and a negative effect on your emotions.”

He said he hoped the city would set aside funds to create an illegal dumping task force, to bring more trucks and sanitation workers to the streets to improve turnaround time. pickups.

The new budget also includes investments in streetlights and security cameras.

Youth programs and safe spaces

The mayor’s proposal and city council’s additions address the need for programs for young people, especially those considered at risk of being involved in gun violence later in life.

This includes an additional $12 million for the Anti-Violence Community Expansion Grant program, which funds gun violence prevention efforts run by nonprofit groups. The program also received a $13.5 million investment in Budget 2022. A similar city-run violence prevention grant program designed to help nonprofits has experienced significant delays in distribution of funds.

The 2023 budget includes $2.5 million to keep recreation centers with gyms open on weekends, which DeCarlo of the Anti-Violence Partnership says could have a significant impact.

“If the space is usable, other nonprofits in the city could also use it to deliver programs, and I think the kids will come,” she said. ” They are there. They are on the basketball courts, they are on the playgrounds. It’s just a matter of opening the doors and saying come in and talk to us.

She said ensuring recreation center funding is used in a way that truly impacts young people will require working with neighborhood groups to design programs that appeal to them.

Victim Services

Homicide and non-fatal shootings have a lasting impact on victims, their loved ones, and neighborhood residents indirectly affected by the violence.

“It’s not like a bullet only hurts the person it hits. It hurts communities, generations, all of us,” said Victoria Wylie of the Donte Wylie Foundation. “I don’t care how much money they add to it, it’s probably not enough.”

Budget 2023 includes some support for those experiencing violence-related trauma, including:

$500,000 for the Office of the Victims Advocate

$100,000 for a domestic violence hotline

$5.8 million for the Defender Association

The Kenney administration says 2023 will mark an expansion of restorative justice diversion, in which young people who have caused harm or been injured by gun violence undergo a supervised reconciliation process.

Some research suggests that being shot is one of the biggest predictors of becoming a shooter. Wylie said building a system that comprehensively addresses the effects of gun violence could prevent victims from becoming abusers. She also said there was a huge need for housing, mental health help and other forms of support for survivors.

“A person gets shot, they can be contacted the moment they are hurt,” she said. “But what happens ten years after their injury? Even if you heal, the trauma, grief, pain and anger you feel after being shot remains.

The 2023 budget also includes funds to improve street outreach programs, expand job training and pilot a version of the READI program, an out-of-Chicago model that combines therapy and job search assistance.

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