How will the next mayor impact Temple’s safety efforts?

Primary elections for Philadelphia’s 100th mayor will take place on May 16.

Former Philadelphia City Council member Helen Gym has said that she would declare a state of emergency due to gun violence if elected.| ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The race for Philadelphia’s 100th mayor to succeed Mayor Jim Kenney is underway with primaries taking place on May 16 and general elections taking place on Nov. 7. Each candidate has discussed issues that impact Temple University as well as the entire city.

Multiple candidates say they will implement policies that would improve safety surrounding Temple’s Main Campus like increasing the university’s police force, cracking down on illegal guns and providing more resources to those impacted by violent crime.

Voters must register by May 1 and request a mail-in or absentee ballot by May 9. After three candidates dropped out, there are currently 10 candidates competing for mayor with nine Democratic candidates and one Republican. 

With an increase in gun violence and crime near Main Campus, many students are focused on the mayoral race and how the candidates will address crime.

At the first and only televised mayoral debate, which featured seven of the Democratic candidates on April 11 and was hosted at Temple Performing Arts Center, Temple Student Government President Gianni Quattrocchi asked candidates how they will address public safety and make Philadelphia a safer place for Temple students.

Several candidates have listed gun violence as one of their top priorities. Former Philadelphia City Council members Helen Gym and Allan Domb have said they would declare a state of emergency if elected. 

Gym said she would bring all relevant agencies together to address gun violence, improve 911 response times and issue non-police mental health crisis units.

“You’ve called Philadelphia home for four years and I’m here to make sure that you call it home for the next 40,” Gym said.

Domb advocated for a public safety cabinet composed of all city departments and other stakeholders including Temple security to combat crime. 

“I would conduct the meetings on a weekly basis, whether they take one hour or five hours,” Domb said. “There is nothing more important right now than getting public safety under control.” 

Jeff Brown, a Shoprite and Fresh Grocer owner, who was recently endorsed by the Temple University Police Association, said that he plans to increase police wages and the number of police personnel.

“The Temple police is suffering from an understaffing problem just like the regular police and every other law enforcement department,” Brown said. “We have to raise starting wages, be competitive, and get that police department staffed up to protect our students.” 

Pennsylvania State Rep. Amen Brown referenced the fatal shooting of Temple Police Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald, and said he will work to reduce the number of violent offenders and prioritize warrant enforcement. 

Following the death of Fitzgerald, 58 percent of students identified safety as the most important issue facing Temple, according to a March 2023 poll by The Temple News.

Former City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart emphasized the urgency of combating crime and said that she would activate the Emergency Operations Center to assist in a public health emergency. 

The Emergency Operations Center is a control facility overseen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that specializes in coordinating resources and experts together to respond to a public health threat. 

There have been 497 homicides in Philadelphia over the last 12 months, with an average of 10 homicides per week, according to 6ABC Action News’ Neighborhood Safety Tracker.

Rhynhart said she would enlist the help of several departments like the Philadelphia Police Department, Departments of Behavioral Health and Public Health and the Streets Department to make Philadelphia safer. 

Rhynhart said she would also work with the district attorney and police commissioner to address gun violence.

Jonathan Iacovelli, a junior economics major who attended the debate, said he wanted to hear how candidates would address other issues, like quality of life. 

“As someone living right off campus and as a Temple community member, crime is definitely a top issue,” said Iacovelli. “Although, I wish other issues like housing and the environment got addressed more as well as public transportation.” 

When asked to grade current mayor Kenney’s performance, the candidates gave a range of answers with Amen Brown giving an F-, claiming Kenney doesn’t show up.

In his final budget plan, Kenney proposed more than $200 million for anti-violence programs and increased funding for the police department.

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