Last year, Marla Davis Bellamy attended the funeral of a teenage boy weeks before he was supposed to graduate from high school. Dressed in his cap and gown, he laid in the casket.
“That visual for me will always linger in my mind,” she said. “Because here’s a young man…that had his whole life ahead of him. That should not be.”
Bellamy is the program director for Philadelphia CeaseFire, an anti-gun violence organization housed in the university’s Center for Bioethics, Urban Health and Policy in the Lewis Katz School of Medicine. CeaseFire treats gun violence as a public health epidemic because it is preventable, Bellamy said. In North Philadelphia, CeaseFire works with residents, businesses, youth outreach organizations and public schools to prevent future violence.
Near Temple, the 22nd, 23rd, 25th, 26th and 39th police districts are some of the busiest when it comes to shootings. Together, they deal with almost 36 percent of all the city’s gun violence.
The Temple News has created a database of shootings that have occurred since April 1 within a set border around the Main and the Health Sciences campuses.
Throughout the city, there have been 514 shootings from that day until now.
The border, defined by The Temple News, extends north from Girard Avenue to Pike and Luzerne streets and east from 21st Street to 6th Street. The border includes off-campus student residences and community residents’ homes.
Within that border, there have been 86 shootings since April 1. Twenty-one people died. The ages of the victims and survivors ranged from 16 to 66 years old.
The longest amount of time between shootings was 10 days. The shortest was a minute, one block apart.
“This has become the norm,” Bellamy said. She added that constant violence in a community has a broader effect.
“You see someone who was shot, or someone who was brutally beaten or maybe someone who was running through the street with a gun, I think instinctively we have a reaction to those kinds of events that may impact us for a long time,” she said. “When you’re talking about a shooting incident, people are very concerned about the victim, the shooting victim’s family.”
There also needs to be support for the people who witness shootings, she said.
Violence also impacts student performance because students are focused on staying safe or grieving after a shooting, and teachers have quit their jobs in the public school system because they have lost so many students, Bellamy added.
Gun violence is a perpetual issue in North Philadelphia, and there are multiple factors that exacerbate it, Bellamy said.
“There’s not one particular issue or social, what we call, ‘determinants of health,’ that you can point to as a cause,” she said. “It’s a number of different things. And all too often, we as a society frequently want to just point to one thing that, ‘This is the cause.’ Or we want to blame something.”
The Temple News will continue to report on gun violence and build its database, tracking shootings through most of the academic year. If you have a story about how you or someone you know has been affected by or involved in gun violence, email firstname.lastname@example.org