Philadelphia Violence Prevention Hotline now fully staffed

A sign announcing the gun violence prevention hotline is shown in the foreground, with elected officials speaking at a podium in the background.

File photo: Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and members of City Council announced that Philadelphia’s new gun violence prevention hotline, 211, is in operation, on March 28, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Working on a solution to gun violence and want to share it? Get in touch with gun violence prevention reporters Sammy Caiola and Sam Searles.

During Wednesday’s bi-monthly Gun Violence Response press briefing, Philadelphia City officials touted some recent improvements to the city’s 211 system.

Erica Atwood, the Senior Director of the Office of Policy and Strategic Initiatives for Criminal Justice and Public Safety, said that the 211 hotline is now fully staffed. The hotline will connect people to gun violence resources such as grief counselors or violence interrupters when needed.

“Today, the hotline has received roughly 500 calls from Philadelphians and served almost 300 people by connecting them with services and other resources,” said Atwood. “With a hotline fully staffed, operators are waiting to answer calls from community members who are looking for preventative or interventive services.” Services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and in over 150 languages.

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City officials also have a plan to make sure that this weekend’s Made in America festivities are safe. Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said that planning for this years’ festival began at the conclusion of the last event: “We will be working closely with the Office of Emergency Management, the Philadelphia Fire Department, and the event’s private security to ensure the safety and security of concert goers to make sure that all event participants, visitors to the city and residents remain safe. We will also be assigning plainclothes and uniformed personnel in and around the event.”

When asked about the trend of gun violence offenders skewing into younger and younger age groups, Mayor Kenney repeated a familiar call to ban guns: “We have a city that’s in a state where guns are too readily available to anyone who wants [them] and the people who get availability of the guns use them in a reckless manner. As I’ve said before, if I were the king of Pennsylvania, I would eliminate all guns, except from law enforcement and the military … as long as we have the flow of guns we have in Pennsylvania, we’re going to continue to have an uphill battle.”

Additionally, Director Atwood discussed the updates from the community listening sessions and the Roadmap to Safer Communities project and Philadelphia Police deputies and detectives provided updates on recent city crime statistics and notable cases.

The next gun violence press conference is set for two weeks from now.

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

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

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