After a violent 24 hours in Philly, Mayor Jim Kenney urged citizens and prosecutors to crack down on the city's gun crimes in order to help first responders and healthcare workers already dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
"In this particular time of crisis, if you're carrying an illegal gun, you need to be locked up and kept there," Kenney said during a Tuesday afternoon press conference.
Between 12:30 a.m. Monday and midnight Tuesday, Philadelphia police were called to seven shootings in the city, three of which were homicides. The incidents included a shooting in which a 1-year-old boy, two teen girls and two women were shot by an unidentified gunman on West Harold Street in North Philadelphia.
Kenney called the shooting “horrible by itself" but "gut-wrenching" amid the coronavirus outbreak. He said anyone committing gun crimes would be arrested, called on gun owners to secure their weapons and called on prosecutors to enforce consequences for anyone carrying weapons illegally.
“This is a message the DA can reinforce in his office’s handling of all such cases going forward,” Kenney said. “There needs to be some consequences for carrying an illegal gun in Philadelphia, especially if you’re a convicted felon.”
Kenney later described his frustration with prior offenders being back on the street and committing more crimes.
“I would not be considered a staunch conservative by any stretch of the imagination and worked very hard over the last four plus years to reduce our prison population and come up with criminal justice reform measures that make sense,” Kenney said.
“But in this particular situation, we have people out there who are walking around with illegal guns, our people are arresting them and taking the gun, and they seem to find their way, in the process, back out in the street. And that’s not acceptable.”
In a lengthy statement, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office said prosecutors have charged and sought the maximum bail for nine people arrested for shootings since March 20.
"...the DAO has vigorously prosecuted and has not declined to charge a single individual arrested by police during the COVID-19 emergency for a shooting, homicide, or other violent crime," Jane Roh, DA Larry Krasner's spokesperson, said, pointing out that the courts decide bail.
"The DAO has declined to charge 11 individuals for lesser offenses during this time period, mostly due to insufficient evidence to proceed," she added.
Roh said the DA's office accepted 71 illegal gun cases referred to them by police in the same time period and requested high bail in all but seven cases – which involved people with no prior record.
The violence is an added challenge for Philadelphia police as they try to slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus in the city. Officers have hit the streets in several neighborhoods to break up large gatherings in order to enforce Philly's stay-at-home order. The shooting on W. Harold Street occurred during a birthday party for a man who had been shot a few days earlier.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said they will make arrests on a case-by-case basis.
“Arrest is not off the table, but obviously, given that this is a public health issue, we want to make sure that we don’t interject in situations that will put either our officers or the citizens that we’re providing a service to at more risk,” Outlaw said.
Kenney mentioned the Community Crisis Intervention Program as a resource for anyone dealing with the threat of gun violence. You can contact the program at 215-800-4611. Kenney also encouraged residents to report criminal activity anonymously by contacting police at 215-686-TIPS.
There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence. Further information can be found here.