Much of America has been gripped by the murders of four men on a Bucks County farm that sounds like an episode from TV’s Criminal Minds.
Meanwhile, almost unnoticed by anyone who isn’t somehow connected, four murders occurred within a 24-hour span in Philadelphia, plus four other shootings in which the victims survived.
There’s no denying the case involving confessed killer Cosmo DiNardo and his alleged accomplice, Sean Kratz, is unusual. But the daily shootings that occur in the city of Brotherly Love should never be viewed as routine. In fact, homicides in the city are up 21 percent compared to last year and aggravated assaults with a gun are up more than 4 percent.
Mayor Kenney showed he is paying attention with Tuesday’s announcement that he is creating an Office of Violence Prevention to examine the effectiveness of the dozens of antiviolence programs that together receive $60 million a year from the city. If any of that money could be better spent to stem gun violence, it should.
This first review of the city’s various nonviolence programs is past due. While there are some excellent programs, the city’s sordid history of corruption suggests there also may be some programs whose funding is more tied to political connections than results. This review might even provide better funding for robust programs with a demonstrated track record of success.
The new office is also expected to research the best practices and innovations in violence prevention; a task that should be given high priority. There’s no time to waste in a city that averages having one person shot every six hours. The fact that most of the shooters and victims are young black men should provide some key toward finding answers.
The shootings happen mainly in poor minority neighborhoods, which, sadly, is likely why they fail to generate as much attention from people who don’t live in those communities, or from city leaders for that matter. Why else would it have taken so long to assess how money doled out for violence prevention is being spent?
Shootings should be treated like the public health epidemic they have become. Everyone is impacted when lives are lost, expensive medical care provided, and tax dollars spent on policing to address the violence. There must be a broad and sustained effort to address the city’s daily shootings.
Elected officials, law enforcement, educators, corporate, public health and community leaders should create a vehicle to collectively develop an aggressive and comprehensive plan to reduce gun violence. Policing strategies must be scrutinized. Gun laws must be changed despite how hard it will be to get a recalcitrant Republican-controlled legislature to change them.
Some help can be found on a U.S. Justice Department website (www.crimesolutions.gov), which highlights effective crime policies. Stockton, Calif., for example, has a program called Operation Peacekeeper, which reduces gang involvement by matching youths with mentors.
Effective antiviolence programs are getting results in other cities. With the right focus and leadership, Philadelphia can do better too.