Emergency hearings on gun violence begin in Philadelphia City Council

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Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Emergency hearings on gun violence begin in Philadelphia City Council
Emergency hearings in front of Philadelphia City Council’s Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention began on Tuesday.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Emergency hearings in front of Philadelphia City Council's Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention began on Tuesday.

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, who is the committee chair, organized the hearings that come on the heels of a violent year and month specifically for gun violence against children.

This weekend two 11-year-olds were grazed by gunfire in separate shootings, and in both cases the child was not the target.

Six people were shot at a park including a pregnant woman and four teens.

Last week 7-year-old Zamar Jones was killed on the porch of his West Philadelphia home by stray gunfire and died.

Days later a 6-year-old girl was shot in her West Philadelphia neighborhood also by random fire. Fortunately, she survived.

According to 6abc's Data Team, 102 children under 18 have been shot this year and eight have died. That's a nearly 70% increase from last year.

Overall more than 1,100 people have been shot in 2020, which is a 36% increase from last year.

District Attorney Larry Krasner testified on Tuesday, as did Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw.

Both talked about the impact of COVID 19 on gun violence. Krasner said bail reform could help with getting low-level offenders who can't post bail out.

In addition, there's a three and a half month court backlog plus probation and parole for a period of time had limited interaction with offenders under supervision.

Outlaw said the department is aggressively seeking illegal guns but also want to focus on getting legal guns out of the wrong hands. Outlaw does not agree defunding the police by $33 million is a good move.

"In addition to COVID, the budget has an impact on what we're able to do. That 33 million equates to 200 officers we won't see hitting the streets," she said.

Krasner said the budget for policing needs to change.

"We have a budget where almost a billion dollars is spent on traditional law enforcement efforts, including my office. Yet only a few million is going to violence prevention. We know it's not working," he said.

Both Krasner and Outlaw cite examples of what their departments are doing.

Krasner mentioned the 12 Assistant district attorneys working collaboratively with police. Also, he said by not prosecuting lower crimes he can put more focus on gun violence. He also added that more protection for witnesses of gun violence could help combat the 'no snitching' mentality.

Outlaw spoke about the ability to move more officers back to their regular patrols with protests dying down, since many were diverted to handle social unrest.

Deputy Commissioner Ben Nash spoke about the importance of cameras, explaining the arrest of the shooter in the fatal shooting of 7-year-old Zamar Jones was because the crime was caught on tape.

Police also outlined the importance of catching offenders in other crimes like drugs and car thefts since they are often the same offenders responsible for homicides and shootings.

Outlaw said she knows if police have a strong tie to the communities not only will people feel safer, the witnesses or people privy to information crucial to investigators will be more likely to come forward.