The Philadelphia Tribune: Congressman Dwight Evans introduces plan to fight gun violence

Congressman Dwight Evans said he wants to end the epidemic of gun violence plaguing Philadelphia.

Evans released a multi-step plan that involves federal government funding to help address the continuous threat of gun violence in Philadelphia.

In 2021 there were 562 homicides and over 1,800 non-fatal shootings. Up to Wednesday in 2022, there have been 125 fatal shooting victims, according to City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart’s gun violence mapping tool. 142 homicides and 504 non-fatal shooting incidents.

“Over the last two years, Philadelphia and communities across America have suffered from a surge in gun violence — a second epidemic,” Evans said. “This is a national problem — it is not just happening here. I have co-sponsored and voted for legislation in Congress, but I wanted to look for ways to do more. This epidemic of gun violence demands an all-hands response — federal, state, and local government — and more community involvement. We must use all the tools in the toolbox to save lives.”

Evans has a seven-point plan to stop gun violence in Philadelphia:

Encourage the use of evidence-based strategies by local law enforcement agencies.

Invest $1 billion in local police departments to increase clearance levels for fatal and non-fatal shootings.

Invest $40 billion in employment and workforce development agencies and organizations.

Invest $5 billion in community-based violence intervention initiatives.

Increase resources for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the U.S. Marshals Service to prevent and respond to gun violence.

Invest $5 billion to reduce blight and improve city environments.

Increase coordination and collaboration of federal, state, and local agencies and organizations.

“I am thankful to Congressman Evans and his ongoing partnership in responding to Philadelphia’s gun violence crisis,” Mayor Jim Kenney said. “It is essential that we have allies at all government levels who prioritize gun violence and who will advocate on our behalf in Washington.”

According to Evans’ plan, evidence-based strategies should focus on violence hotspots. An investment in holding intervention groups with criminals and including family members and victims’ families.

The plan also suggests community support, availability, and access to programming that deters people from making criminal decisions and a community-based board to review progress and performance measures.

“Research has shown that focusing on dissuading groups from participating in criminal behavior is more effective than strategies that are strictly focused on deterring individuals,” Evans said.

Like District Attorney Larry Krasner, Evans has called for a technology investment to help the struggling clearance rate. The inability to clear shooting cases is a nationwide problem. According to Evans, as the nation’s 2020 murder rate rose, the clearance rate fell by 7%.

Philadelphia cleared 22% of its shootings in 2020.

“That is why I am co-leading the VICTIM (Violent Incident Clearance and Technological Investigative Methods) Act with Congresswoman Val Demings of Florida,” Evans said. “The bill would authorize $100 million per year for 10 years.”

The VICTIM Act would allow the Philadelphia Police Department to hire and retain more detectives to investigate shootings.

“This funding and this bill would give police departments the resources they need to solve more shootings,” Evans said.

According to Evans, the unemployment gap between Blacks and whites is 3.2% in the first quarter of 2022.

“Increasing employment opportunities for at-risk youth and adults is critical in reducing gun violence,” Evans said. “Several employment models have shown success in reducing gun violence.”

Evans said investing $40 billion into workforce systems — including workforce boards, American Workforce Centers, state and local agencies, and employment and training grantees in communities with a higher concentration of gun violence would help. The funding would come from the Build Back Better Act.

Also, through the Build Back Better Act, there is a $5 billion investment in community-based violence intervention initiatives.

“The funding would be used to support evidence-informed intervention strategies to reduce community violence,” Evans said.

The initiatives would include:

Hospital-based violence intervention programs and connecting people to services.

Philadelphia Ceasefire/Cure Violence: Trusted messengers and violence interruption.

Evans’ fifth step is increasing collaboration and coordination of federal law enforcement agencies. This would come from increased funding in President Joe Biden’s proposed budget.

“Last year, when I met Congressman Evans, gun violence was our main topic of conversation,” said Special Agent Matthew Varisco of the ATF. “Congressman Evans was committed and open to any ideas that could help reduce gun violence, which plagues the city when many cities around the country began forming task forces to combat this issue.”

Evans’ $5 billion investment to improve city environments. This plan is similar to At-large Councilmember’s Helen Gym’s plan for liveability in Philadelphia.

“The relationship between areas of high gun violence and certain types of city residents can be understood as a result of intergenerational segregation, redlining, and socio-economic exclusion,” Evans said.

Evans said he would like to create green spaces, increase street lighting and fund housing repairs.

“Improving environments has shown to increase socialization with neighbors, and strong community relations have been associated with a reduction in crime,” Evan said.

The congressman’s final point speaks to collaboration. He said he wants federal, state, and local appointed officials to work together with city organizations and agencies instead of staying in silos.

Evans refers to the Philly Hub, created by the director of Philadelphia CeaseFire, Marla Davis Bellamy, with several different organizations. However, he said they need more funding.

“We (Philadelphia CeaseFire) are working collectively together, and I can tell you that that’s what we need to do here in Philadelphia,” Bellamy said. “We’re doing some great things, but we’re not doing them together. Everyone also has to buy in … If you live or work in Philadelphia, you’ve got to be a part of this. That’s the only way we’re going to solve this.”