Building It Better Together: Combating Gun Violence in Philadelphia

Action News' Maggie Kent hosted a discussion with local and federal law enforcement on the epidemic of gun violence in Philly.

Maggie Kent Image
Wednesday, September 1, 2021
Building It Better Together: Combating Gun Violence
With the number of shootings soaring in the city, local law enforcement is leaning on backup from federal agencies.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- With the number of shootings soaring in the city, local law enforcement is leaning on backup from federal agencies like the FBI and ATF, to gain control over the gun violence epidemic.

Maggie Kent sat down with stakeholders focused on solutions-based policing.

It's part of our Building It Better series on "Combatting Gun Violence"


Philadelphia is surpassing homicide statistics set three decades ago. Murders are up nearly 20% in the city this year compared to last.

With exclusive access to the FBI, ATF, US Attorney's Office and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw we ask: what's driving the brazen shootings?

The FBI is targeting street-level gang activity.

"They'll be doing surveillance on one gang member in one intersection of the city, and they're seeing people walking down the street carrying guns," said FBI Asst. Special Agent in Charge Jim Christie. Everyone seems to be carrying guns these days."

ATF Agents are tracking legally purchased guns up the eastern seaboard that are pouring into the city.

"Unfortunately here in Philadelphia we also have a significant amount of firearms that are being trafficked from other states, outside of Pennsylvania, states such as Georgia or Alabama," said ATF Spec. Agent Matthew Varisco.

We're seeing, anecdotally, these perpetrators getting much younger, the victims getting much younger.

"There was a time when I first arrived a year and a half ago, if a juvenile was shot, you'd see the commissioner come out because it was so far and few in between," Outlaw said. "It started happening so often that we had to set up a rotation, so I could get a little bit of sleep at some point."

The number of juvenile shooting victims is up 30% from last year, with 142 children shot so far this year.

"A lot of these scenarios are stemming from altercations - or beefs, so to speak - whether initiated on the streets or social media."

There's a link between gun violence and narcotics sales.

"Just since March, we're talking about collaboration with the feds. We've recovered, street-value-wise, over $69 million worth of narcotics. We've made 237 arrests. We've recovered over $8 million in US currency and confiscated specifically to this - over 200 guns," said Outlaw.

Acting US Attorney of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Jennifer Arbittier Williams is tasked with federally prosecuting these cases.

"We will sometimes take a case federal, with a bad actor, that has committed a lot of violence over their lifetime," she said. "They should be facing a longer sentence."

This "All Hands on Deck Initiative" has been in action for six months.

For more on the patterns federal and local partners are seeing, and the technology being utilized and the lessons learned, check out our full panel discussion below:

Building It Better Together: Combating Gun Violence