Gun violence in 2022: 500+ homicides, prevention efforts, and public safety

2022 was another challenging year for the communities most affected by Philadelphia gun violence.

A row of people sit at a table with microphones in front of them.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw speaks at a press conference on Dec. 20, 2022, outlining the city's efforts to reduce gun violence. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

This story is from Stop and Frisk, a podcast production from WHYY News and Temple University’s Logan Center for Urban Investigative Reporting

Find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

How do you feel about stop and frisk (and policing more broadly) as an answer to Philly’s gun violence crisis? Get in touch.

City efforts to deter gun violence in 2022 yielded some success, but the year-in-review proves there is room for improvement. While Philadelphia saw 8% fewer homicides in 2022, the city met the grim milestone of 500-plus homicides for the second year in a row. As of December 31st, there were 516 homicides, a distance from the record-high 562 homicides recorded in 2021.

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Contention and disagreements between the parties tasked with handling the issue ranged from City Hall to the mayor’s office, and beyond to other city and state institutions and organizations.

Shootings of public workers, rising violence both in and around area schools, and multiple lawsuits between Philadelphia and Harrisburg over gun control measures kept the topic top of mind, but those constant incidents may have prevented opportunity for long and deep consideration.

Police vehicles are parked at Roxborough High School
File photo: Police vehicles are parked at Roxborough High School near where multiple people were shot in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Amid the climate in which every side clamored for action, the Republican-led state House impeached Democratic District Attorney Larry Krasner for policies they allege contributed to an increase in crime in Philadelphia.

Memorials honoring those lost to gun violence expanded during the year, including a garden at the CHOP hospital, a photographic exhibition in Saunders Park, and the release of several documentaries.

Women gather together and look towards the camera.
Mothers and grandmothers who lost loved ones to gun violence support each other in Saunders Park during the unveiling of SHOT: We The Mothers, a portrait series. (Sam Searles/WHYY)

Additionally, the panic-inducing mass shooting on South Street and Mayor Jim Kenney’s response to a Ben Franklin Parkway shooting both added to the strained mood. The mayors’ comments, including his statement, “I’m waiting for something bad to happen all the time,” led to heavy criticism from fellow politicians and citizens.

Then-Councilmember Cherelle Parker — and others — called for Kenney’s resignation after those Parkway comments. “I think the mayor’s comments were asinine,” Parker said.

“I called him. And I told him that if you can feel this way, imagine how Philadelphians who don’t have the ability to check out feel.”

At a Dec. 20 press conference at City Hall, Kenney and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw presented a recap of the violence prevention efforts, and forecast their plans for next year.

City-led prevention methods in 2022 included:

Philadelphians have experimented with new ideas of their own, such as anti-violence music competitions, increasing access to mediators to de-escalate arguments, and conducting community-wide surveys.

Following the South Street mass shooting, City Council President Darrell Clarke suggested stop and frisk as a method to combat gun violence. Citizens weighed in on the possibility of more use of the method in “Stop and Frisk: Revisit or Resist,” a new podcast from WHYY News and Temple University’s Center for Urban Investigative Reporting.

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Politicians across the city and state introduced new policies from crowd-sourced recommendations to utilizing Red Flag laws. According to Councilmember Isaiah Thomas, “the devil is in the details.”

“I’m optimistic we can build upon our efforts to keep Philadelphia safe in 2023 and beyond,” said Kenney at the Dec. 20 news conference.

Mayor Kenney sits at a table in front of a microphone.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney speaks at a press conference on Dec. 20, 2022 outlining the city’s efforts to reduce gun violence. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The mayor, Commissioner Outlaw, and city representatives proposed new and expanded gun violence prevention methods for 2023.

  • The Philadelphia Police plans to redeploy at least 100 additional officers in the neighborhoods experiencing the highest rates of gun crime starting in January. This comes after a year of Operation Pinpoint, a crime targeting program, showed only single-digit differences.
  • The Pinpoint map has been shifted to the combined areas where 43 percent of gun violence occurred this year. There will be “increased” police presence in the new Pinpoint areas.
  • Increase the number of Roadmap to Safer Communities meetings.
  • Follow recommendations provided by the 2022 independent evaluation of the Community Crisis Intervention Program (CCIP) programs.

On Dec. 29, the District Attorney’s Office (DAO) announced that it will open a new unit to prosecute carjackers. Krasner said the goal is both to prosecute and give youth a second chance if deemed appropriate.

“Certain cases require a hammer and adults who are engaging in carjacking and terrifying the community and tearing apart society are looking at a hammer,” Krasner said. “… When you’re going after juveniles, there is a place for a hammer. And then there is a place for knowing the difference and knowing when we’re all safer, if we work more on the rehabilitation end of that.”

Additionally, the DAO will reopen the Gun Crimes Strategies & Prevention Collaborative. Prosecutors in the DAO’s Homicide and Non-Fatal Shooting Unit will be geographically reassigned to Philadelphia Police Divisions. The group will also present weekly gun crimes updates and provide victim services briefings.

As for Mayor Kenney, he told WHYY News that while some problems are “frustrating,” he has no plans of resigning as mayor. Noting a budget surplus and a 3% decrease in poverty (despite inflation and COVID-19), Kenney stands by his choices.

“I am very, very proud and happy to be mayor. I’m not happy with, I think, some of the problems that we have to face,” Kenney said. He said some problems “…are very daunting, and some of them are frustrating because you don’t have all the tools.”

Kenney referenced Pennsylvania state lawmakers’ refusal to give the city the ability to regulate firearms more strictly in Philadelphia than elsewhere in the commonwealth.

Philadelphians will have a number of considerations in 2023 on how to tackle the problem, with nearly a dozen mayoral candidates, ongoing issues in area schools, a new governor in office, and community organizations working to curb gun violence happening primarily on 57 blocks across the city.

If you or someone you know has been affected by gun violence in Philadelphia, you can find grief support and resources online.

Sam Searles is a Report for America corps member covering gun violence and prevention for WHYY News.

Stop and Frisk: Revisit or Resist

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