Mayoral Q&A: Safety
Philadelphia voters will go to the polls to select the major-party candidates for mayor May 19. With that in mind, the Inquirer Editorial Board posed seven questions on the issues that will face the city’s next mayor. Responses from candidates — except for Milton Street, whose campaign did not respond to invitations to participate — will be published daily through Friday, with the final one next Sunday.
What would you do as mayor to lessen gun violence in the city?
Click on each candidate to see what they have to say.
Tap on each candidate to see what they have to say.
“I will work to put an end to senseless violence and start building a safer Philadelphia.
“I will work to put an end to senseless violence and start building a safer Philadelphia. We cannot allow another generation to walk down the same unsafe streets.
To accomplish this, I would appoint a police commissioner with a proven track record for fighting crime, using community-based policing while respecting individual civil rights. I will ensure that the Police Department has the necessary funds, staff, training, and equipment to protect all Philadelphians.
I have opposed any expansion of the use of guns for self-defense for decades, because of my concern that gun violence would increase under unwarranted or unsubstantiated claims of self-defense.
I have testified in Harrisburg on more than one occasion to oppose the sale or possession of semi-automatic and automatic weapons, weapons with an extended magazine, and banana clips. I also have testified in favor of limiting sales of handguns in Pennsylvania to one handgun a month.
As district attorney, I prosecuted straw purchasers of handguns that were winding up in the hands of felons who could not legally purchase them because of their criminal record.”
“I will create a director of gun violence reduction in the Mayor’s Office to coordinate and implement a “focused deterrence” strategy for each of the city’s police divisions.
“The issue of gun violence is what inspired me to enter public service. After the shooting death of 5-year-old Marcus Yates, I cofounded a nonprofit that protested against drug dealers in my neighborhood. As a legislator I focused on getting illegal guns off Philadelphia’s streets. I sponsored bills to require the registration of all firearms and to expand penalties for the transportation of illegal guns. I cofounded the Gun Violence Taskforce to end the straw purchasing of guns in Philadelphia.
As mayor, I’ll push for full funding of the task force budget at the state level, and will increase Philadelphia gun license fees by 50 percent, from $20 to $30, to provide an estimated $350,000 in new, local revenue.
Gun violence is concentrated in certain neighborhoods with high poverty rates. In fiscal year 2013 alone, seven of the 22 police districts accounted for nearly 60 percent of all violent crimes in the city. I will create a director of gun violence reduction in the Mayor’s Office to coordinate and implement a “focused deterrence” strategy for each of the city’s police divisions.
Focused deterrence emphasizes cross-agency collaboration and targeted engagement with individuals at greatest risk of being the victim or the perpetrator of gun crimes. It invests in partnerships that direct social services toward violent offenders in areas with high crime rates. It provides criminals and their associates with a choice: Stop shooting or face coordinated enforcement from all elements of the criminal justice system. Participants are also given the opportunity to change through streamlined connection with education and job-training services. To date, this strategy has shown success in South Philadelphia, where homicides are at a historic low.”
“Having 248 murders in 2014 is too many. One murder is too many. We have made progress, but we must continue to improve.
“The Philadelphia homicide rate is at a 27-year low. It is evident that the Police Department is making strong strides to improve. Commissioner Charles Ramsey attributes the citywide decrease in crime to the implementation of a data-driven strategy that focuses on known offenders, supports community outreach, and fosters bottom-up accountability. Philadelphia needs this positive momentum to continue.
As mayor, I will ensure there is:
• Ongoing situational training that prepares our officers for what they may encounter while on the streets and that provides them with the sensitivity tools they need to interact in a respectful and fair manner.
• A community engagement and support board to deliver actionable feedback to police leadership and gather info on how that feedback is utilized.
• A common understanding among the police that small crime should be treated like it is the precursor to big crime.
• Proper funding to provide the police with the tools they need to serve communities.
Although the city touts the fact that the murder rate is the lowest it has been since 1967, it doesn’t negate the fact that we still have a serious problem in Philadelphia. Having 248 murders in 2014 is too many. One murder is too many. We have made progress, but we must continue to improve.”
“I also believe a shift to community policing from the current “stop and frisk” model would reduce the overall crime rate while repairing frayed police-community relations.
“To start, I would look to address the root causes of gun violence. We need to educate our children and provide them with meaningful employment opportunities. If they see a pathway out of poverty, they will jump at the chance — just like I did. Instead of a generational cycle of entrenched poverty, we’ll create a self-reinforcing cycle that brings crime rates down.
I also believe a shift to community policing from the current “stop and frisk” model would reduce the overall crime rate while repairing frayed police-community relations. According to the ACLU, 40 percent of stops don’t meet the constitutional standard of “reasonable suspicion,” which is one reason why the overwhelming majority of those stopped are found to be innocent of anything other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. New York City reduced “stop and frisks” by 95 percent over the last five years — and murders declined by one-third and shootings by one-fifth. Effective and respectful policing can and should go hand in hand.
At the same time, we have to recognize that Act 192, passed by the State Legislature to help the NRA sue cities like Philadelphia that are trying to address gun violence, is going to present a major challenge to the next mayor. The way Act 192 stands legal concepts on their head is stunning to me as a former judge. Our Republican-controlled General Assembly doesn’t seem to grasp that laws that might be appropriate for a rural district just aren’t applicable to a city like Philadelphia, where guns are being used to shoot people, not deer.
I’m glad Mayor Nutter is standing up to the NRA and defending our current laws — which would ideally be strengthened — rather than caving. I’m going to take every step I’m legally empowered to take to reduce the number of guns on the street.”