PHILADELPHIA - Gun violence and homicides are skyrocketing in the City of Philadelphia. There have been 76 deadly shootings this year, according to the Philadelphia Police Department. That is a 33% increase in homicides from the same point in 2020, which saw just under 500 shooting deaths.
In a one-on-one interview, FOX 29’s Shaina Humphries pushed Mayor Jim Kenney on the impact of that violence on the entire region and spoke about various issues the city is facing.
Kenney points out a number of factors are contributing to the increase, including poverty, the coronavirus pandemic, availability of guns, and straw purchases.
"The one issue we are dealing with that is very serious is shootings and homicides. It's generally in a group of people that are amongst each other," Kenney said.
The Philadelphia Police Department and other agencies are continuing to work to curb gun violence, according to Kenney. He also notes there's a surge in gun violence in every large city throughout the country.
"There are just way too many guns in our society and way too many guns in the streets of Philadelphia despite the valiant efforts of the police department to take these guns out of people's waistbands and out of their hands," Kenney said.
He added, "We need every tool we can possibly have to fight this. In addition to doing violence intervention, getting people social services, psychiatric services. It all rolls into one big serious problem that we're dealing with on top of dealing with the economy, getting schools open, getting people vaccinated, and dealing with day-to-day city services requirements."
On Saturday, a gun buyback event in Philadelphia collected more than 150 firearms in exchange for grocery store gift cards. The buyback event came just a day after Philadelphia leaders gathered near the Olney Transportation Center where eight people were wounded.
As for being visible enough in the communities, Kenney says his schedule has been curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Well, the problem is my schedule has been curtailed relative to the lack of community meetings, lack of in-person meetings. This is not your normal year. 2020 was not normal in any way. I don’t go to crime scenes because I believe a politician at a crime scene gets in the way," he said.
The mayor also defended the police department and city’s response following the January report from the city controller's office that said Philadelphia was not prepared for the civil unrest following the death of George Floyd.
"That’s her opinion. She expressed that opinion and published a report and we read it. We are moving on," Kenney said.
"Do you disagree with it?" Humphries asked.
"I'm not going back and forth with you about the controller's report. It says what it says. It's in the public realm, people can make up their own minds," he said.
As for lessons learned, "The level of civil unrest was quite something. Police were outnumbered during the course of those two days or so of chaos and we got it under control. We're building back and building back better," he said.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw has Kenney's full support and he is confident in her leadership.
"Commissioner Outlaw has my full support. She's been doing a great job reforming the department. I think she's a dynamic leader and a star appointment. She has my full confidence. I think she's a terrific person," he said.
What about any discussion about the academic impact of the pandemic? He says they will need to see with test results once students are back full-time and see what has fallen off and what they have to bolster.
"I wouldn't mind I'm not saying it would definitely happen. I'd like to see potentially the school year extended maybe even permanently that we go into June or so but that creates need for air conditioning and other things that some buildings don't have," he said.
Kenney is hopeful the city can recover from the impacts of the pandemic within the next two years with help from Washington.
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