Mayor Kenney said he hasn’t visited gun violence victims — his office says otherwise

Mayor Kenney, police, and city officials say they’re committed to addressing issues in grant money and curfews.

A closeup of Philadelphia Mayor Kenney

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. (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.

“As mayor, my administration’s No. 1 priority is to keep people safe; to protect our residents,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenny during Tuesday’s virtual gun violence press conference.

When asked if that included visiting families of violence victims, Kenney said he has not made such visits during his term in office. “I have spoken to people who have been victims of shootings, but as far as the homicides are concerned, I don’t know that it’s productive that I intercede while the investigation is going on,” he said.

The Mayor’s office clarified the statement in an email to various press outlets, saying that he has met with mothers of children killed within the city.

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The Mayor has been under scrutiny after the shooting at the Parkway on July 4th. During press coverage following the shooting, he told reporters he was looking forward to when he is no longer mayor and can “enjoy some stuff.”

During the rest of Philadelphia’s bi-monthly gun violence task force, Tuesday morning, Mayor Kenney, Philadelphia Police, and city officials took complaints and questions from reporters. Kenney renewed calls for statewide gun legislation and members of the police force gave an update on recent cases. He said in his opening remarks that the current crime data is “devastating.” While Philadelphia’s homicide rates are down 2% year-to-date, carjackings are on an upward trajectory, according to Philadelphia Police.

Mayor Jim Kenney, Erica Atwood — the Senior Director of the Office of Policy and Strategic Initiatives for Criminal Justice & Public Safety — Deputy Commissioner for Operations Joel Dales, and Chief Inspector Frank Vanore answered press questions after overviews of the city’s gun violence and prevention initiatives.

When asked about the effectiveness of the recent updated curfews, Atwood said that connecting teens to resources has to be a community effort. “I’m confident … it works, if people tell people that it exists,” she said. “If you see little Kevin down the street hanging out and it’s at 10 at night? Offer to buy him something to eat and walk him to the curfew center. There are ways that we can do this and connect people to these services and support services without it having to be a law enforcement intervention.”

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The group addressed complaints that have come to light from recent coverage of slow payouts to community anti-violence organizations. WHYY news  has reported on how a number of these groups covered program expenses on their own, went into debt with stipends, waited longer than promised for funding, or were told that they would not be paid. Organizations could choose between spending up front and getting reimbursed or using the city’s fiscal sponsor to pay for expenses directly.

The reimbursement system, said Erica Atwood, was one of the first problems the city began working on following complaints. The round five grantees, announced last week, will be paid using a different method:

“We’ve done a number of things to ensure that we are reducing the barriers to folks accessing the grant funds,” said Atwood. “We’ve broken up the grants into three payments, very similar to a traditional grant model. From the gate, people will receive a third of the funds.”

The next gun violence response press conference will be held virtually in two weeks.

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

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

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