‘All of It is Senseless': Philadelphia Police Deploy More Officers to Curb Gun Violence

"These are real people and real families that are affected by gun violence," Philadelphia's police commissioner said

The Philadelphia Police Department intends to deploy more officers onto city streets this summer in an effort to curb deadly gun violence, Commissioner Richard Ross announced Tuesday.

Ross revealed the department's plans one day after a 17-year-old was hit by a stray bullet while playing video games inside his North Philadelphia home. The victim, who is expected to recover, had just attended his senior prom over the weekend. 

"These are real people and real families that are affected by gun violence," Ross said. "All of it is senseless. Not some of it - all of it."

Police already added extra boots on the ground during the Memorial Day weekend, he added. Some of these officers came from administrative assignments and will continue to deploy as temperatures, and tempers, flare this summer.

As of Tuesday morning, Philadelphia police recorded 130 murders, which is 10 more than this time last year, according to city data. Ross attributed much of this violence to drugs, as he did in 2018, but also to firearms. Approximately 90 percent of those murders involved guns, Ross said. 

The majority of these crimes were commited by young men between the ages of 18 and 34, he said.

"We still have a long way to go," Ross said. "We will not rest until we continue to drive down violence as a whole but particularly gun violence."

Despite the rise in homicides, overall crime remains down in Philadelphia.

Ross pointed to recent successes in diversion programs and other alternatives currently being pursued by the police department. This includes SAT tutoring, offered in conjunction with Villanova University, plus mentoring and career programs for at-risk youth and adults. More than 61 people have already found jobs through the Turning a New Corner initiative, which was launched last year. 

“We've got to drop that moniker that we’re the biggest poor city in the country," Ross said. "That is one thing that doesn’t bode well for us. We’ve got to move that needle.”

This holistic approach to law enforcement is keeping in step with policies also being pursued by the Philadelphia Mayor's Office and District Attorney's Office. 

In January, Mayor Jim Kenney unveiled a sprawling plan to reduce gun violence. His recommendations included job training, crisis intervention teams and cleaning up neighborhoods.

Earlier this year, District Attorney Larry Krasner said his office will use a decade-old but barely enforced law to prosecute cases in which gun owners fail to report lost or stolen guns. Anyone who breaks this law will face a $2,000 fine and up to 90 days in jai l.  

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