Commissioner Outlaw: Public safety in Philadelphia is an 'ecosystem' that requires community support
PHILADELPHIA - Major U.S. cities experienced several violent incidents and shootings over the Easter weekend.
In Philadelphia, dozens of people were shot in separate shootings across the city between Thursday and Sunday.
Nine of those people died from their injuries, including an armed home invasion suspect impersonating a police officer who was fatally shot by a Mayfair resident with a license to carry.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw joined Good Day Philadelphia to discuss rising crime and answer questions from FOX 29 viewers.
When asked about where Philadelphia's crime stands compared to other major cities, Outlaw says crime is an issue regardless of where the city ranks.
"For those of us who live here, we know what it really is like all day every day," she said. "We're starting to see a downward trend that we were kind of seeing at the end of the year last year, but crime is still an issue regardless of where the numbers are and where we are compared to other cities."
Many Philadelphia residents want police officials and politicians to take the blame for the rising crime, but Outlaw says it is up to the entire community.
"I think we have to start looking at crime in Philadelphia as an ecosystem, public safety as an ecosystem," she said. "It's not just the police. It's not just the administration. It's also community. It's all of the social services providers. It's also the other stakeholders in the criminal justice system. So it's not any one entity."
In terms of working together, Outlaw thinks there is more "wiggle room" for others to step up and do their part, but she acknowledges things are better than they were two years ago.
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In addition to her career, Outlaw is also a mother of two adult sons and many wonder how the violence in the city affects them.
"I do have some anxiety about them going out and being on their own, but I don' think we should live in fear," she said. "I don't think we should invoke unnecessary fear. Go out and do what you do," she said signaling that activating a state of emergency for gun violence is not the approach she'd take.
Some residents are also asking if the National Guard could be brought in to help patrol city streets, but Outlaw says there are reasons the agency is not utilized more often.
"The National Guard is a military and there's different rules of engagement. So when you bring the military into patrol municipal streets there's different rules there, which is why we use them so infrequently," she said.
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Outlaw says the current strategy Philadelphia police is using includes having officers visibly placed in areas of high crime, but the struggle to obtain new city officers is impacting its progress.
"Unfortunately, we don't have the same number of officers that we've had over the years to sustain that," Outlaw said. "So while some neighborhoods may see their areas flooded with cops for an extended period of time, we may have to move on to the next and that's when we rely upon the other partners, our social services to come in and simultaneously flood those areas at the same time."
For critics who have comments about why Outlaw isn't always seen in the public light, she says it's the job of the department's public information officer to handle press and public appearances and she makes herself available for specific cases that are the most crucial and critical.
In addition to criticism about how often she makes public appearances, some say Outlaw should resign, but she doesn't see the benefit of doing so.
"Why would I do that? Really that means every commissioner or police chief around the country would be doing the same thing. We're all dealing with the same thing. We're all dealing with a completely different landscape at any other police chief had to deal with two years ago," she said.
Click here to find resources for victims of violence in Philadelphia.
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