For Philadelphia City Councilmember Curtis Jones, the recovery of 12-year-old Hezekiah Bernard’s body in a West Philadelphia trash can last month became the latest motivation to make a once-and-for-all plan to prevent gun violence in the city.
“If 300 whales washed up on the shore of the Schuylkill, every marine biologist — including Jacques Cousteau from the grave — would come out and ask why,” he said. “300 citizens of Philadelphia die every year and it isn’t elevated to the point that we need to study this more.”
Jones is gathering more than 100 community organizers, lawmakers, academics, and businesspeople for a Blueprint for a Safer Philadelphia Crime Summit. St. Joseph’s University will host the event, and will use the discussions to produce a “white paper” to hand to the incoming mayor and police commissioner.
Jones says mayoral candidates Cherelle Parker and David Oh will both have staff onsite for the day. Lieutenant Governor Austin Davis will give the keynote. Estelle Richman with the Philadelphia Civic Coalition to Save Lives, a new group of philanthropy and business leaders that has been funding violence intervention efforts, will also be present. Former Philadelphia Mayor Wilson Goode will share insights from Amachi, his nonprofit that focuses on incarcerated parents and their children.
Participants in the invitation-only event will be broken up into groups to discuss specific topics including public education, policing technology, and criminal justice.
Jones says the summit is in response to the 100 Shooting Review Committee Report of 2022 — a document created by local law enforcement agencies, city departments, and public defenders highlighting the driving factors behind the gun violence crisis.
The blueprint created from Saturday’s event will exist in addition to the Philadelphia Roadmap to Safer Communities, which was released by Mayor Jim Kenney and the Office of Violence Prevention in 2019.
City leaders have made large investments in gun violence prevention in recent years — $155 million in fiscal year 2022 and $208 million in fiscal year 2023. The homicide total is down 19% from this time last year according to the Office of the Controller.
“But we don’t have a clue what things that were done that worked,” Jones said. Members of the public can contribute suggestions for Saturday’s discussion here.
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