Community group believes it made a difference in Thanksgiving weekend violence

Dozens of volunteers went door-to-door handing out information and talking to residents about stopping gun violence.

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Monday, November 29, 2021
EMBED <>More Videos

Dozens of volunteers went door-to-door handing out information and talking to residents about stopping gun violence.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Mazzie Casher knew he and his fellow volunteers were asking for a lot as they canvassed West Philadelphia on the day before Thanksgiving.

"We're calling for a cease-fire," said Casher of the effort that saw dozens of volunteers going door-to-door handing out information and talking to residents about stopping gun violence. Some of those conversations were with young men who may have been at risk of becoming victims or perpetrators of gun violence.

"I couldn't even tell you, some of them might have had guns at the time. But when they saw us out there, they were like 'Oh y'all are patrolling? That's what's up,'" Casher said of the warm response.

In the end, there was not a 100% cease-fire on gun violence in the area. But Casher said there was a reduction.

According to the local leaders and organizations affiliated with the website ZeroHomicidesNow.com, there was a reduction in the number of shootings from Thanksgiving Day through Sunday this year compared to the same time in 2020. There was also a difference, Casher said, in the numbers in the West Philadelphia area volunteers patrolled.

The radius that volunteers walked included parts of the 16th, 18th and 19th police districts. In that area, the organizers say shootings went from 11 Thanksgiving weekend 2020 to four this Thanksgiving weekend. In that area, they'll take any signs of progress.

"I know that sounds crazy, only four shootings, but that's comparative," said Casher. "That's remarkable for West Philadelphia. It's a hotbed."

But gun violence is still a challenge in a city that has already broken its record of 500 homicides in a year, which was set in 1990.

"We're getting guns off the streets by the thousands. And they're coming back on the streets by the thousands," said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.

Philadelphia is trying to address the gun violence crisis with $22 million in grants for gun violence prevention programs. But organizations on the ground say that money is wrapped up in a lot of red tape.

"It's kind of a circus to be honest with you," said Casher while describing the months-long process it took to procure funding for a community-focused event happening this week.

While he's grateful for that funding, he's discouraged by the process. Kenney says it's a necessary step to make sure the funds are spent appropriately.

"It is taxpayer's money, so there's a process we have to follow," Kenney said. "We can't just start writing checks. There is a process."

The individual organizations combining forces include: Christian Stronghold Baptist Church, Philly Truce, Urban League of Philadelphia, Power Platforum, 10K Fearless Philly, 100 Black Men of Philadelphia, the House of Umoja, Partners in Peace, and The Philadelphia Masjid. Under the website ZeroHomicidesNow.com, they're signing up volunteers to canvass areas across Philadelphia preparing for their next big action: calling for a cease-fire from Christmas Eve to New Year's Day.

"The people who live with it are going to give you the solutions," said Casher. "God willing, we can get to a point where we're going to have consistent patrols."