Philly beefing up police presence for Labor Day weekend, Made in America

A Philadelphia police cruiser is parked between Arch and Market streets in West Philadelphia

A Philadelphia police cruiser is parked between Arch and Market streets in West Philadelphia on April 2, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said the city is beefing up its police presence over Labor Day weekend in hopes of avoiding outbreaks of gun violence. It comes as the number of people murdered in Philadelphia continues to rise, as does the number of crime guns being taken off city streets.

Officers are being brought in on days off, Outlaw said, and there will also be special patrols and undercover officers in the crowd at the Made in America concert, expected to draw tens of thousands of people to the Ben Franklin Parkway.

Now that school is back in session, Outlaw said the department is shifting personnel from the summer schedule to offer more protection at schools.

“Our deployments at recreation centers during the day will be shifted to ensure safety around schools,” said Outlaw. “Officers will still be making periodic checks at rec centers, and any rec centers where issues have been identified will see an increase in officers patrolling around these centers.”

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The latest official statistics show 355 homicides in the city as of Aug. 29, an 18% increase over the same period a year ago. The number of shooting victims is up 15% with 1,535 shot so far this year versus 1,337 in 2020.

During the city’s bi-weekly gun violence briefing Wednesday, police officials said the top three motives for the shootings are arguments, drugs, and domestic disputes.

Deputy Commissioner Joe Dales said as of Aug. 30, police investigators recovered 4,039 guns used in crimes. During the same time a year ago, police took in 2,908 crime guns. Those numbers do not include guns turned in during gun buyback events in the city.

The number of so-called “ghost guns,” which are sold in parts to be assembled without serial numbers so they cannot be traced, are also going up. In all of 2020, police recovered 250 “ghost guns,” This year so far, police have recovered 370 of them.

The city is hiring people for its Community Crisis Intervention Program, which aims to help mediate conflicts and stop shootings before they start. Candidates should be “credible messengers” who understand the neighborhoods they are trying to help. The program also comes with case managers and human service coordinators to help people who have needs find the services and empower communities after a negative impact from violence.

George Mosee Jr. of the Philadelphia Anti-Drug Anti-Violence Network or PAAN said his group tried to stay active on the streets, even during the height of the pandemic, but it was difficult.

People interested in applying to the crisis intervention program are encouraged to reach out to PAAN at 215-940-0550.

To report an impending conflict, please call 215-800-4611 and a crisis counselor will be sent to the neighborhood to help mediate, said Mosee.

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