Philadelphia's gun violence epidemic is the result of a lack of accountability

It’s no secret that Philadelphia is experiencing a gun violence epidemic. The end of 2021 left us with a record number of 562 homicides, according to the Office of the City Controller. Tragically, 52% of these deaths were between the ages of 18 to 30, and some were even younger.   

In 2022, we are on pace to shatter that record. Over the Labor Day holiday weekend, more than 30 people were shot that resulted in at least 10 of those people dying and there were multiple stabbings.  

This bloody weekend happened during the holiday while various festivities were taking place throughout the city, when an already short staffed police force was stretched even thinner. Joe Sullivan, former Philadelphia police deputy commissioner, said that big events like this add immense pressure to police, who are critically low on manpower.   

We must stop tying the hands of police and letting dangerous criminals go, sending the message that if you commit a crime in Philadelphia, you will not be punished. It emboldens people to commit crime and removes morale from our police officers.   

I am and will always be a supporter of criminal justice reform. At the same time, it is important that we hold violent criminals accountable for their actions. We should not be letting a small percentage of individuals dictate how the majority live, work and play. You can promote reform, address systemic barriers, and hold criminals accountable as well -- these things can happen simultaneously.  

Just this year, out of nearly 7,000 violent offenses, 4,500 of them were dismissed. That’s 63% more than last year, the bloodiest year in our city’s history.   

I recognize that many of the individuals who have been in and out of the criminal legal system may continue to act out in a society where they do not perceive hope or opportunity. This despair starts in places like the schools, which continue to fail our children consistently.  

The Philadelphia School District’s Scorecard showed that in 2019 only 5% of third graders could read at grade level. This failure of the public education system has made us all co-conspirators in the decline of our communities. We need to invest in our children and their futures now, as their lives depend on it at this point.   

We need adequate after school programs, recreation centers and parks. We need to invest in things that will keep our children off the street.   

As a man who grew up in the heart of West Philadelphia, I have seen firsthand the devastation that this epidemic has caused in our city. I was a part of the youth I speak about now, and every day I speak with the people in my district and across the city. They are tired of the senseless violence and fear instilled in them and so am I.   

We need action and accountability at every level of government; from Mayor Kenney, District Attorney Larry Krasner, and state lawmakers such as myself. We need to find solutions not only to the gun violence crisis but its systemic causes, and the lack of accountability that allows it to continue.   

Philadelphia’s gun violence epidemic is like a patient with a gunshot wound and terminal cancer. The terminal cancer is the myriad of systemic causes of violence rooted in poverty, inadequate education, and a dysfunctional social structure. The gunshot wound is the collapse of our criminal justice system and its ability to intervene to prevent violence and protect its citizens. As leaders, we are capable, and required, to address both - or our city will die.