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Philadelphia Mayor: No, we don’t have a gun violence emergency

As we’ve seen in too many other cities, Philadelphia is in the middle of an ongoing surge of shootings this year, with only a handful of days in 2021 that didn’t see someone wind up on the wrong end of a gun. The problem has grown bad enough that members of the City Council petitioned Mayor Jim Kenney to declare a formal state of emergency, opening up the possibility of additional state and federal assistance in getting the problem under control. The Mayor responded to this request in a letter to Councilwoman Jamie Gauthier, obtained by CBS Philadelphia. Kenney agreed that his administration needed to be more transparent in terms of how they were addressing the violent crime surge. But the then turned around and denied the request, saying that an emergency declaration would not change conditions in the city. Really?

Mayor Jim Kenney has formally denied requests for an emergency or disaster declaration for Philadelphia’s growing gun violence problem, according to a letter obtained by Eyewitness News.

The letter, dated Monday, was sent to Councilwoman Jamie Gauthier. Mayor Kenney cites points made by Councilwoman Gauthier as poignant, such as requesting transparency in the administration’s fight against gun violence, but ultimately denied the request.

“But, after serious consideration, I believe the simple declaration of some emergency or disaster akin to that signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the state of New York is not a solution that will demonstrably change conditions in Philadelphia for several reasons,” Kenney writes.

The list of reasons the Mayor offered as justifications for refusing to issue the declaration made no sense and seemed unrelated to the councilwoman’s question. He talked about the amount of money that the city was already devoting to “resources,” the “coordinated response” to violence that began in 2019, and unspecified discussions he’d had with Joe Biden.

Just to put things in context, on Tuesday night there were three people killed and seven others injured, including a pregnant woman, in multiple shootings around the city. The night before, one woman was killed and 12 other people were shot. In the first six months of this year, there have been more than 2,100 shootings and more than 300 deaths.

Not for nothing, Mr. Mayor, but your ongoing “coordinated response” since 2019 doesn’t seem to be doing a damn thing to get the violence under control. In fact, the murder rate is currently more than a third higher than it was at this time in the past several years.

I suspect that there’s a better reason why Mayor Kenney won’t declare a state of emergency and seek additional resources to tamp down the killings. To do so would be a tacit admission of the dismal failure of the policies that he and the appropriately named Police Chief Danielle Outlaw have put in place. They were the ones who fought to defund the police and reduce their presence on the streets. They pushed for the elimination of cash bail in most cases, effectively installing revolving doors at the courthouses. And they moved to aggressively “empty the jails” based on any excuse they could dream up.

The results have been both obvious and predictable. More criminals and gang members on the streets with less fear of law enforcement means you have more gang violence and crimes of all sorts. And that’s precisely what’s happening. Jim Kenney needs to get off of his butt, whip out his pen, and do what the City Council suggested. There need to be more shooters in jail and more cops on the beat. Otherwise, Philadelphia will wind up looking like Baltimore and Chicago already do. And it’s getting closer to that dismal state every day.

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