Kenney, City Council announce focus on violence prevention with new spending

Pat Loeb
November 06, 2019 - 1:37 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Hours after landslide election victories, Philadelphia's elected officials gave a clear indication of their priority for the next term, announcing that they are putting an additional $4 million into violence-prevention programs.

One focus of Mayor Jim Kenney's first term was criminal justice reform. Among the accomplishments he points to is the closing of the House of Correction, through a reduction in the inmate population. But City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson suggested it was time to change course a bit.

"I support criminal justice reform, but I also support our neighborhoods being safe," Johnson said. "We can't be compassionate about individuals who are taking the lives of our young people, who are making our seniors living hostage inside their homes."

Johnson and other council members promised to pass the new funding before the current session ends. Council President Darrell Clarke said he'd like to see even more money spent on solving gun violence.

Among the programs getting new funding is "focused deterrence," a carrot-and-stick strategy that targets those most likely to shoot with incentives to give up crime, balanced by the assurance of swift and certain punishment. 

Additional resources will also be put into crisis intervention, rapid community outreach in the wake of serious crime, and better data collection on what works.

"With these investments, we will be able to have much more of an effect, we believe, in the community," said Deputy Managing Director Vanessa Garrett Harley.

But with 88% of the city's homicides the result of gunshots, Kenney stressed the need for gun laws at the state level.

"It's absolutely horrendous, what's happening in this state, and it all comes downhill and affects us here," he said, lamenting the state's lack of action on gun control. "We've taken more guns off the street in the last four years than ever before, but those guys go out into Bucks County and Berks County and buy bags of guns."

The new programs are slotted to start in the spring.