Eryn wants Philadelphia to be the safest city in America. Currently, we’re not heading in the right direction. Philadelphia has seen an uptick in homicides and shooting victims – a nearly 10% increase in shootings and fatalities by shooting from 2015 to 2018, and a homicide rate that is the highest it has been in a decade. Unfortunately, we’re having difficulty solving these crimes as the clearance rate for homicides is leaving violent offenders on our streets. This is a symptom of a lack of coordination or fractured relationships between our officers and detectives, and the communities they serve. We need to respond to these challenges with a sense of urgency, creativity, and compassion.
According to data from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, from 2010 to 2017 Philadelphia experienced a reduction in violent crime (22% reduction) – the second largest improvement of any city with more than one million people. However, our city had - and currently has - much more violent crime to contend with compared to those same cities. Only Chicago has a higher rate of violent crime than Philadelphia.
No matter the issue, as Philadelphians we are truly all in this together. Violent crime, and particularly homicides, affect us all. Families are torn apart by gun violence, creating great emotional trauma and other challenges for victims and their loved ones. Further, the reality and perception of violence have a devastating impact on the social fabric and economic well-being of the neighborhoods where it is concentrated.
We have made great strides in the past to reduce violence in our neighborhoods by focusing on community engagement strategies, and we must remain focused on building safe neighborhoods for everyone if Philadelphia is going to continue to grow and prosper for all people.
Building safe communities also means effectively addressing our various emergency response needs. Emergency Medical Services calls have been on the rise nationally, including Philadelphia where the majority of calls for service in the Philadelphia Fire Department (PFD) are medical in nature. With public health concerns surrounding Philadelphia’s higher rates of obesity, asthma, and heart disease, the city must be prepared to deploy emergency responders in a manner that matches the needs of our patients. In addition to prioritizing EMS response capacity, we must also work with our public health experts and the broader medical community to improve the overall health conditions of our people and prevent medical emergencies from occurring in the first place.
● Ensure the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) prioritizes patrol units and detectives over other administrative activities. Additionally, we need our patrol officers to build on their community engagement work by “walking the beat” and knocking on doors to talk with community members and build stronger relationships well in advance of an incident occurring. Philadelphia has used this tactic before to build stronger community-based networks that help promote safety and we must do this again.
● Build partnerships to address the trauma that results from violent crime. When there is a loss of life or a shooting in a neighborhood, entire families and their communities are impacted by these acts of violence. We need more than just a police response; we need to coordinate supportive services for victims, their family members, and their surrounding community members. Eryn will work with our non-profits who already provide social and emotional supports in our neighborhoods to coordinate response teams to help manage the trauma associated with this kind of violence.
● Work with the PPD to prioritize resources (budget dollars and personnel) into targeted areas of the city that are experiencing the greatest amount of violent crime.
● Go after the guns on our streets. We know that guns are far too easy to access in Philadelphia, and Eryn supports ongoing coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to go after those bringing and fueling the gun violence in our neighborhoods. Eryn will also work to build regular and adequately funded gun buy-back programs so that we focus on the root cause of so much violence.
● Ensure Philadelphia’s first responders are prioritizing responses. We have the technology to adjust our responses based on the level of emergency and should focus our response goals and resources around this targeted approach. This allows our public safety units – especially in the PFD – to be more efficient, effective, and safe when responding to medical emergencies.
● As a matter of public health, ensure public employees (targeting those working out in our communities) receive appropriate lifesaving training so when confronted with medical emergencies they are prepared to assist. This includes use of Narcan to prevent drug overdose, CPR training, and the use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs).
● Coordinating with the medical community, our nonprofits, and our public institutions on preventative public health programs, such as providing nutritionists in our schools (focusing on family nutrition) and promoting opportunities for our individuals and families to walk, bike, and engage in other forms of exercise.