Philadelphia looks to crack down on gun violence with comprehensive new program

- Violence has rocked our nation, and here in Philadelphia, we are no stranger to gun violence.

Shootings continue to shake up Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. Fox 29’s Dave Schratwieser took a closer look at how police are working to put those gunmen behind bars.

Whether it's a drive-by shooting in Hunting Park, a gunman with an assault weapon firing into a home, or a gunman wildly firing a gun into a house in Southwest Philadelphia, gunfire can terrify an entire neighborhood. It can also leave the intended targets and innocent victims wounded or even dead.

Philadelphia Police say even those shootings are currently down 7% this year, they've now put in place a comprehensive new gun violence program aimed at reducing those numbers even more and putting the gunmen behind bars.

“Our top priority is to drive down violent crime, we're having some success at it, but we can never be satisfied until you're at zero,” Deputy Commissioner Joseph Sullivan explained.

Deputy Commissioner Sullivan pointed to the murder of 38-year-old Gerard Grandzol as a tragic, but recent example of how police resources with a laser focus can quickly put violent criminals in jail.

“You can see that it resulted in those two individuals being identified and taken into custody in an incredibly short period of time,” Sullivan said.

In the Grandzol murder, two brothers, Maurice and Marvin Roberts, were locked up within 48 hours.

The speedy arrest was thanks in part to a trail of surveillance video recovered from the shooting scene, the accused killers getaway route, and the SEPTA train they used to escape. It was video, intelligence information and the use of cutting edge facial recognition software that helped identify the Roberts brothers and solidify the case against them, leading to murder charges.

“All of that is critically important, but at the end of the day it's good old fashion police work that brings the job in,” Sullivan added.

Police are also using intelligence information to identify suspects, gang members and other violent criminals near shooting scenes.

They’re pouring resources into so-called hot spots to deter more gun violence. They use foot patrols, highly versatile bike officers, and tactical units such as highway patrol to squash retaliation shootings and prevent more violence.

“We're stopping less than half the number of people that we stopped three years ago, yet part one crime, violent crime, property crime, is down in Philadelphia. I think that speaks a lot to our precision policing strategy,” Sullivan explained.

Police have also set up public service areas, or PSAs, across the city to build better communication with neighborhood groups and residents.

They meet to discuss problems and solutions and seek community input.

“They're aware of the priorities of the people that live in that PSA and they're familiar with the problems that exist within that PSA and they're aware of the people causing the problems in that PSA,” said Deputy Commissioner Sullivan.

Deputy Sullivan says federal authorities are also adopting city gun cases to get tougher penalties against violent criminals.

“Spending our time focusing on those people that are committing the majority of the violence in the city and using whatever legal means necessary to disable them and get them off the street,” Sullivan said.

The deputy commissioner says the key to solving gun crimes and stopping further gun violence is neighbors and witnesses who are willing to step forward and help police.

“No matter how much technology we have, we need that human being to say that is the person that did it,” Sullivan explained. 

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