City officials met at City Hall today to discuss a broad array of inter-agency strategies geared towards the prevention and reduction of crime in Philadelphia.
Mayor Michael Nutter was not in attendance at the meeting but commented on his Administration's efforts in a press release:
“Our Administration has a multi-faceted and continuous approach to combat crime,” Nutter said. “We know a true crime-fighting strategy cannot only focus on policing and incarceration; it must address the underlying conditions that contribute to criminal activity. The programs and initiatives in which we are engaged are interrelated and focused on the same goal: reducing crime with a focus on decreasing the number of young black male casualties in our City.”
Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Everett Gillison hosted the meeting where he highlighted the Nutter Administration’s multifocal approach to addressing the City's crime. During his remarks, Gillison referenced the Trayvon Martin verdict as a pivotal reason to create programs and policies that address disproportionate violence among and against African-American males.
"Within the last 30 days the country has experienced quite a lot of shocks to its system. And to say that race has been part of the discussion, just over the last 30 days, I think underplays what really has gone on in the country for probably over 30 to 40 years," Gillison said.
"Trayvon Martin is dead; and Trayvon Martin was killed. And we respect what happened with the jury and its role in finding what happened, but I think it calls us to actually take a moment of pause to sit down and ask ourselves what are we doing to make sure that there are no more Trayvons. African-American men and boys kill other African-American men and boys and that's a fact to be acknowledged, yes, and to be dealt with honestly through a collaborative approach, also has to be done."
Chair of City Council's committee on public safety Curtis Jones, Jr., commissioner for the Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS) Anne Marie Ambrose, executive director of the mayor’s Office of Re-integration Services for Ex-offenders (RISE) William Hart, and several other city officials highlighted their individual agency's efforts to address violence and crime in Philadelphia.
Crime reduction among African-American men and boys remains a focus for Gillison who also represents the City of Philadelphia in the Cities United effort.
Cities United is a national effort by the National League of Cities in which mayors and other municipal leaders form partnerships with other local officials and community leaders to create strategies to reduce violent deaths among African-American males.
"Cities United was formed two years ago out of the feeling that you needed to have a place for mayors to understand what are the best practices to dealing with a hot button issue, because we're Americans: race. No one really wants to talk about black on black crime," Gillison said.
"Cities United provided mayors with an opportunity to come together and talk about what was going on in their cities, because when u look at the data, it doesn't lie."
According to data from the Philadelphia Police Department, in 2011 there were 316 murders in Philadelphia. 75 percent of those murder victims were black males and 80 percent of those murders were committed by black males.
"If you don't acknowledge a problem, you can't do anything about it. There are things we can do and Philadelphia has been leading the way," he said.