Education, employment, and family engagement: Philly City Council zeros in on efforts to curb youth violence

The hearing featured a common thread centered around the need for better education and job opportunities to help break the cycle of violence.

The north facade of Philadelphia City Hall.

Philadelphia City Hall, north facade. (Mark Henninger/Imagic Digital)

Philadelphia City Council held a hearing on the problem of gun violence Monday morning as the city has seen nearly 500 people have been shot so far this year– 99 of those victims have died.

The hearing at City Hall focused specifically on violence involving young people.

Councilmember Jamie Gauthier started the hearing by talking about spending time in the emergency room comforting a family after the shooting death of a recreation center worker last September.

“As a mother of two young Black boys myself, I am deeply concerned by the growing amount of youth becoming entangled in the violence epidemic,” Gauthier said. “The number of shooting victims under the age of 18 has steadily grown since 2015, from 6.3% to 9.6%. At the same time, the percentage of young people arrested for gun violence tripled between 2017 and 2022.”

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Once young people have been involved in the criminal justice system, Gauthier said the city needs to do more work to prevent future violence outbreaks.

“Youth who are adjudicated delinquent for gun crimes are not given real support to get out of the legal system or address rehabilitation and accountability,” said Kendra VandeWater of the group YEAH Philly. “Core programs are solely focused on punishment, and the same people are cycling in and out.”

Kimberly Ali of the city’s Office of Children and Families offered some short-term solutions to the problem.

“We need to be more intentional with family engagement, much like we do on the child welfare side to keep parents engaged we have to mirror that on the juvenile justice side.”

First Deputy Police Commissioner John Stanford said the city will work hard this summer to improve quality of life issues. That includes making sure pools and recreation centers are safe. He said the police department’s community relations unit will work to engage young people across the city through the Police Athletic League.  Summer block parties and other events are also planned to engage and entertain young people in the city, Sanford said.

Others that spoke at the hearing called for better employment and educational opportunities to deter youth from violence and crime.

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