Depending on their zip code, residents feel under siege, unable to even sit on their front stoops for fear of being struck by a stray bullet.
Shootings such as the one Wednesday night, in which four people were shot near Max Steaks in the 3600 block of Germantown Avenue, happen regularly. There was a time when a quadruple drive-by shooting outside a sandwich shop was big news. Not anymore. Homicides are up 25% over this time last year.
Philly residents in afflicted neighborhoods shouldn’t have to cower inside their homes at night, fearful of becoming the next homicide victim. Nobody should. Something has to give. The city needs bold leadership on this issue — not more shoulder shrugging.
When you can’t get action at home, my thoughts always turn to Washington, and the influence that elected officials might have on making things happen. So, when I spoke with U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.) on Tuesday, I asked about the July 23 letters he wrote to Mayor Jim Kenney and President Joe Biden about all the homicides. Evans got right to the point.
“I felt that all hands needed to be on deck,” Evans added.
I couldn’t agree more.
On the day we spoke, Evans got a response to his letter from Kenney. The mayor pointed out that although there are a number of things he could do if an official state of emergency were declared, he has no plans to declare one.
“While some of these restrictions, such as a curfew, could be used to impact the current crisis of gun violence, we know that the vast majority of the shootings and homicides happening in our neighborhoods are perpetrated by few individuals,” Kenney said in the four-page letter. “Reducing the liberties of the many law-abiding residents of our city to address this strikes me as unfair. Instead, my administration has chosen to address this crisis as the public health emergency it is ….”
The mayor referenced his recently updated Philadelphia Roadmap to Safer Communities plan and added, “I understand and share your desire to ensure that residents who feel unsafe know that this issue is front and center for my administration. That is why we have implemented bi-weekly press briefings on our work to address this epidemic.”
“We should be outraged,” Evans said. “I don’t think the outrage is to the level it should be.”
In his letter to Biden, Evans asked why Philly hadn’t been named one of the five cities that the Justice Department has targeted as part of a new federal crackdown on gun trafficking.
“I believe that Philadelphia should be added to this list,” Evans wrote. “Pennsylvania is a state where it is easy to obtain a gun. … In the beginning of 2021, police in Philadelphia made arrests for carrying illegal weapons at three times the rate they were in 2017. I believe that these loose gun laws coupled with record-level homicides and gun violence mean that Philadelphia should be included on this list of cities where [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] enforcement is going to be increased.”
Evans said that, as a Black man, he is particularly troubled by all the homicides and not hung up on semantics or whether the city declares an actual emergency. “Whatever you call it, we need to come with a solution,” he said.
That’s something we can all agree upon.