gun violence

‘All Play a Role': DA Gets Emotional as Philly Pleads for Leaders to Take on Gun Violence

Philadelphia's district attorney appeared to tear up Monday while discussing a 1-year-old boy shot in the leg this weekend. Officials and experts are at a loss to find solutions as community leaders begin questioning elected officials' tactics.

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The carnage caused by guns in Philadelphia continues to stymie law enforcement and elected officials' efforts to stop city residents from shooting their neighbors, with the latest weekend toll causing the city district attorney to pause with emotion Monday during a press conference.

"I'm sorry it keeps going on, but it keeps going on," Krasner said, as he looked through several pages of notes about shootings that injured numerous Philadelphians over the weekend.

At one point during his press conference, Krasner paused while discussing a West Philadelphia shooting that left a 1-year-old boy with a bullet wound to the leg.

"On Saturday evening at 8 p.m., an approximately 1-year-old child..." Krasner said, before stopping to collect himself. He continued, "...was shot one time in his left leg...(pausing again) 50th and Haverford...(pausing again) excuse me...he was taken to CHOP and placed in stable condition."

More than 300 people have been killed in Philadelphia in 2021, putting the city on pace for the deadliest year on record.

Criminologists, law enforcement officials and elected leaders in Philadelphia are struggling to pinpoint what will stem the tide of gun violence ripping apart communities across the city. Mayor Jim Kenney, who touts $155 million in new funding for prevention efforts, announced Monday he would not declare a state of emergency because of the gun violence. It was unclear what the declaration would do if he had declared it.

Meanwhile, the level of shootings and killings without historical parallel is tearing at the fabric of Philadelphia city life and culture.

"Right now, we’re not very optimistic as we look at what’s happening," Jabari Jones, president of West Philadelphia Corridor Collaborative, said. "We’ve seen businesses shut down. One company told me they are thinking about moving out of the city because of the gun violence. And it seems like the issue is not getting any better."

Jones wrote last week, in an op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer, of many small businesses in the city, particularly Black-owned ones, losing out on 25 revenue-generating hours a week because they are forced to close before sundown out of fear.

He blamed local leaders for not finding new ways to lower gun violence.

"There has been a lack of accountability and a culture that does not hold people accountable," Jones said Monday. "That comes from places across the city like the DA's office, and the courts, and city officials with the rhetoric they throw out there. All play a role."

Jones, whose organization works with businesses in West Philadelphia, said he and other private citizens are pressing ahead with their own initiatives. He currently is working with some Philadelphia state representatives to tap into state funding for 300 security cameras that businesses and residents could apply for and install in West Philadelphia locations identified through police department data as high-crime areas.

"We got maps from the police department showing where violent crimes happen in communities. They show these hexagons and squares that pinpoint crime in 2-to-3 block radiuses. Some of these areas have had 80-90 crimes," Jones said. "I think that’s a no-brainer to put a camera there."

Experts like Temple University criminologist Jerry Ratcliffe believe that the COVID-19 pandemic may have unhinged society in a way that prompted a surge in gun violence.

And he's not sure gun violence will recede as the pandemic eases.

"We’ve taken the lid off something and just because we have the lid back in our hand, trying to screw it back on, doesn't mean will be get it closed again," Ratcliffe said. "We’re in uncharted territory. We have never been in a situation where we've been in a pandemic this long. It’s all new. For the claims by people who say it was all the economy, they’re starting to look less and less viable. It’s not to say the economy didn’t play a role. It was one of the catalysts, but returning the economy to pre-pandemic may not be the solution to the violence we are looking for."

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