Philly school principals join community to discuss rising crime: 'None of us are safe'

A total of 441 homicides have been recorded this year, according to Philadelphia police statistics.

Thursday, October 21, 2021
School principals discuss rising crime: 'None of us are safe'
"Why do we just live to die? It's like there is no way out of this," read a text message to one Philadelphia school principal.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Residents, civic leaders and others across Philadelphia continue to be deeply concerned and troubled by the unrelenting deadly gun violence.

Increasing numbers of people are saying they don't feel safe.

"There is a war going on in these streets and none of us are safe," said Shavonne McMillan, the principal at Vaux Big Picture High School. "So many of those who are in the crossfire are civilians in this war."

In North Philadelphia, high school principals and other administrators gathered Wednesday night to share stories of tragedy happening in and around their schools.

Le'Yondo Dunn, the principal at Simon Gratz High School Mastery Charter, shared a text he got from one of his high school seniors: "I just lost four friends in a month. Why do we just live to die? It's like there is no way out of this."

At a number of meetings Action News attended through the night people expressed their fears.

In Southwest Philadelphia, a town hall was held to discuss violence and nuisance corner stores in the neighborhood that seem to attract it.

"There are safety concerns. Bullets have no names, so we want to make sure we take care of that problem," said Southwest Philadelphia resident Joel Balbi.

"I'm sick and tired of it. But there's nothing I can do but speak, that's why I'm speaking now. They need to do something," Southwest Philadelphia resident Kim Miller said.

"It's good that the community did come out because it shows they have an interest in addressing their concern because at the end of the day that's what democracy is all about," said Councilman Kenyatta Johnson.

SEE ALSO: Commissioner says Operation Pinpoint proving some success in curbing Philadelphia crime

As Philadelphia continues to remain on pace for a record number of killings, today the city's top cop declared the news is not all bad.

The reasons cited for the alarming rise in gun violence vary from the heroin and opioid epidemic to warring street gangs involved in the drug trade. But others point to other social and economic problems like poverty and broken homes.

"We have to get to the root of their problems first, like a father in my life, a love for a mother, right? No child left behind," said Khalif Majadid-Ali of Beloved Care Project.

During Wednesday's gun violence briefing, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw noted that while shootings and murders are up overall citywide, there are areas of the city seeing some improvement in crime.

"Several districts have seen double-digit decreases in homicides since the last year and six have seen decreases in non-fatal shootings," she said.

Outlaw credited the success in part to the agency's data-driven patrol strategy known as "Operation Pinpoint," which started in 2019.

As the name suggests, the enforcement centers on areas where violent crime is rampant.

When questioned about what some may view as nominal gains in an arena where even recently innocent bystanders are falling victim, Outlaw said the work is ongoing.

"We're constantly out here hustling and our civilian employees alike are out here doing everything that we can to ensure everyone's safety," she added.