Kenney to address Philly gun violence amid outcry as homicides top 300

"An emergency or disaster declaration would not change the direction" of the city's work, the mayor said.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is expected to hold a joint virtual press conference Wednesday afternoon to provide an update on gun violence prevention strategies as the homicide rate reaches at least 308 people killed so far this year.

The murder rate is up 33 percent from this time last year and the city has already surpassed many total-year tallies.

To put the startling statistic into perspective: This year, homicides-to-date, just halfway through 2021, are higher than the full year totals in six of the past 12 years.

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Homicides-to-date this year, just halfway through 2021, are higher than the full year totals in six of the past 12 years.



Kenney will be joined by city officials with the Office of Criminal Justice and Public Safety, the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services, and the police department.

They'll address prevention strategies underway and will focus on available behavioral health and trauma support.

The mayor is also expected to take questions for the first time concerning a letter he wrote to City Council stating that he would not declare a state of emergency, arguing that it is not a solution that would change conditions they are currently working to combat.

In his letter, which can be read in full below, Kenney said, "calls for a disaster or emergency declaration are intended to unlock additional resources, but the City of Philadelphia is already doing this by allocating over $150 million in the FY22 budget that was just approved."

Kenney said a call for an emergency declaration may be better directed toward unlocking more state resources.

"The City would welcome additional state resources and changes to regulations that stem access and the flow of illegal guns," the mayor wrote.

The mayor said, in regards to an emergency declaration allowing for a more coordinated response to gun violence, his administration has been working to address violence in a coordinated fashion for years.

"Next, it has been said that an emergency declaration would draw more attention to this issue and allow for a greater response from other governmental or non-governmental partners. The reality is that the gun violence epidemic is impacting cities across the country, and Philadelphia is participating in every opportunity to learn and share with our peers," Kenney said.

The mayor said he has spoken with President Joe Biden "on the urgent need for new and enhanced approaches," and the city is participating in multiple national networks.

"An emergency or disaster declaration would not change the direction of this work," the mayor said.

RELATED: Community outreach group board member shot in North Philadelphia
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One of the latest victims of Philadelphia's rising gun violence is a board member for a community outreach group.



There are City Council members and others in the community who are not happy with the mayor's approach.

"His response that he's already doing enough, already doing all he can, provides no sense of comfort to the people who are being traumatized, absolutely traumatized," said City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, who responded with a letter of her own, which can also be read below.

One of the most recent lives lost involves a 38-year-old man who died after being shot just after 12:30 a.m. Wednesday along the 1800 block of N. 26th Street in Strawberry Mansion.

On Tuesday night, two people were shot, including a woman who is six months pregnant, according to police.

She was hit three times, once in the head, arm and chest, officers said.

Investigators said it happened along the 5400 block of Pearl Street at a lounge night club where people were gathered to remember an employee who recently passed.

RELATED: Philly shootings leave 3 dead, 5 injured including pregnant woman

Someone fired at least 19 shots into the group, police said. Both shooting victims are stable.

"The baby also survived. At this time, however, specialists have gone to the hospitals to render additional care to the unborn child," according to police.

In another double shooting, one man was shot and killed Tuesday night along the 2600 block of N. 12th Street in North Philadelphia.

Five minutes later in a different shooting, another man died after being shot along the 2100 block of Master Street.

Read Mayor Jim Kenney's Letter to City Councilmember Gauthier:

Dear Councilmember Gauthier:

I write today in response to your call for the declaration of a gun violence emergency for the City of Philadelphia. I wholeheartedly welcome contributions and ideas to help solve the epidemic of gun violence impacting Philadelphia. Your feedback was a key reason that our administration began bi-weekly public briefings about the epidemic, similar in format
to our briefings on COVID-19. I agree with you that the public deserved greater transparency and communication about the administration's commitment to anti-violence and I'm pleased that these are now occurring. But, after serious consideration I believe the simple declaration of some emergency or disaster akin to that signed by Governor Andrew
Cuomo for the state of New York is not a solution that will demonstrably change conditions in Philadelphia for several reasons.

First, calls for a disaster or emergency declaration are intended to unlock additional resources, but the City of Philadelphia is already doing by this allocating over $150 million in the FY22 budget that was just approved. This money is independent of the hundreds of millions of dollars the City already spends on solving some of the deeper root causes of
violence. The funding does include over $20 million in money for community-based organizations working to intercede and stop violence before it occurs, and substantial new funding for job opportunities for those at the highest risk of committing or being a victim of violence. A call for an emergency declaration may be better directed toward unlocking
more state resources like Andrew Cuomo allocated $139 million in new funding for gun violence prevention across the state of New York. The City would welcome additional state resources and changes to regulations that stem access and the flow of illegal guns. I have discussed this with the Governor directly, and my Administration is working closely with
Attorney General Shapiro on the issue of illegal guns.

Secondly, it has been said that an emergency declaration would allow for a more coordinated response to gun violence. The reality is that our Administration has been working to address violence in a coordinated fashion for several years, dating back to the release of the first Roadmap to Safer Communities in 2019, with further refinement with the updated
Roadmap release this past April. Every week I meet with a team of officials from the Philadelphia Police Department, Managing Director's Office, Office of Children and Families, Philadelphia Department of Public Health, and other departments to hear directly about our on the ground work and our progress and setbacks. On a weekly basis there is coordination amongst operating departments and social service agencies, led by the Managing Director's Office, the Roadmap Tactical meetings are real-time problem-solving efforts in areas most vulnerable to gun violence. Additionally, our Administration is leading a collaborative approach to violence that includes working with other agencies not under my authority, including the District Attorney and the First Judicial District. Make no mistake that are always areas for improvement. In fact, we are planning to deepen the Philadelphia Department of Public Health's coordination and reporting role in the updated Roadmap because we believe a public health approach with an epidemiological lens will
bolster the impact of the initiatives underway. That said, a disaster or emergency declaration would have no discernible impact on strengthening what is already a highly collaborative and innovative approach to addressing this public health crisis.

Next, it has been said that an emergency declaration would draw more attention to this issue and allow for a greater response from other governmental or non-governmental partners. The reality is that the gun violence epidemic is impacting cities across the country, and Philadelphia is participating in every opportunity to learn and share with our
peers. I have spoken personally with President Biden on the urgent need for new and enhanced approaches, and Philadelphia is participating in the White House's Community Violence Intervention (CVI) Collaborative. We are participating in national networks, like Cities United, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and the National
Coalition for Gun Violence Interventions. I have also joined Attorney General Shapiro, DA Krasner, and Commissioner Outlaw in calling for enhanced firearms trafficking resources be sent to Philadelphia to help us stem the flow of illegal guns into our City and the hands of those willing to commit violence. An emergency or disaster declaration would not
change the direction of this work.

Local government leaders across America are doing everything we can within our powers to bring resources, coordination and attention to the epidemic of gun violence that continues to spread like a disease across our nation. Together we must all keep working on solutions to invest in and heal communities hurt by gun violence and resist the temptation to issue statements that will not have the desired impact. I look forward to your continued partnership on this front.

Sincerely,

James F. Kenney
Mayor

Read Councilmember Jamie Gauthier's Response:

"Late yesterday, by way of a letter to my office, Mayor Kenney made it known that he will not execute an emergency response to Philadelphia's worsening gun violence crisis. This is an insult to the residents of my district and people across our city who have been traumatized by the violence in their neighborhoods, and it's an extreme disappointment to all of us who have been advocating for a more urgent response from the Kenney Administration on this matter.

"Nearly a year has passed since City Council unanimously adopted Resolution 200447, which presents a detailed set of proposed steps that our city could take - such as greater speed and transparency on the implementation of gun violence prevention initiatives, enhanced coordination among relevant City agencies, and leveraging the resources of Philadelphia's dynamic business community - in order to treat this crisis with the urgency it deserves, and invest more in tackling it from a public health perspective.

"For the Mayor to offer such a flippant, tone-deaf response to our call for action after so much time has gone by, and so many people have been injured or killed, is simply unconscionable.

"The Mayor's letter did nothing to address the reality of what people in my district are grappling with on a daily basis. To give you a sense: in the last two weeks alone, there was a mass shooting on 60th Street, where two people died; a mass shooting this past Friday at Bartram's Village, where one of the five victims was a 14-year-old girl; a shooting at a corner store on Saturday where a one-year-old baby was shot in his mother's arms, as she shopped for groceries; on Sunday, a triple shooting at 53rd and Market, and a triple shooting in Kingsessing; and a triple shooting last night in Mill Creek. These incidents don't just affect shooters and victims. They inflict trauma on everyone who lives nearby, who have to contend with the daily reality of unrelenting violence in their backyards.

"It is inconceivable to me that Mayor Kenney would take the stance that he is currently doing enough to address this crisis, as his letter lays out. If he really believes that's true, then he needs to work much harder to prove it. Because from the vantage point of people on the ground in violence-plagued neighborhoods, many of whom are afraid to leave their homes and go about their daily lives, things are getting worse - not better."

"We also must acknowledge that it's Black people who are bearing the brunt of this epidemic. The idea of our city using 'Black Lives Matter' as a slogan, but not treating our gun violence crisis as a priority turns this powerful statement into a farce. If this level of violence were happening in white neighborhoods, I am certain Mayor Kenney would move hell and high water to bring it to an end as quickly as possible.

"The effort for a citywide emergency declaration on gun violence was never about a symbolic gesture. It was about harnessing the collective power of our city to fight this deadly crisis, and doing so with an urgency that reflects how much we care about the wellbeing of Philadelphians. I am beyond disheartened by this outcome, but it won't weaken my resolve. I will not stop fighting for justice for our neighborhoods until safety is restored to our streets."
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