January shootings rise in Temple area police district

Shootings this year in the 22nd District have increased compared to the same period in 2019.

A police officer returns to their car in front of Fresh Grocer at 1501 N Broad on Feb. 3. | CLAUDIA SALVATO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

This story was updated on Feb. 4 at 9:30 a.m.

Rattling off a list of shootings, Belinda Kelly, who lives on 17th Street near Diamond, said gun violence in the area has been getting “worse and worse.”

“It ain’t getting no better,” Kelly, 62, said.

As of Jan. 28, 18 people have been shot in Philadelphia’s 22nd District this year, compared to three during the same period in 2019, according to the Philadelphia Shooting Victims Dashboard.

The 22nd District encompasses Main Campus, Brewerytown, Strawberry Mansion and Yorktown.

Citywide shooting victims have also increased by approximately 2 percent in 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, according to the dashboard, which is a project of the Initiative for Better Gun Violence Reporting. 

More than a year has passed since Mayor Jim Kenney released The Philadelphia Roadmap to Safer Communities, a 32-page plan to tackle gun violence throughout the city. 

The plan outlines a public health-based approach to gun violence that focuses on reducing inequality in communities with high rates of violence, bolstering law enforcement’s use of analytics and community-based policing, and improving reentry programs for people who were incarcerated, according to its executive summary.

“The overall strategy is to go where the violence is, go to the people who are most at risk, go to the places that are most at risk, and do all that we can to prevent them from further being violent,” said Theron Pride, the city’s senior director of violence prevention strategies and programs. 

In the year after the plan was announced, shooting victims increased by 6.2 percent compared to the year before, according to the dashboard.

“It is certainly with a heavy heart, for a lot of us know that we’re still not where we want to be,” Pride said.

Since the roadmap was announced, the city has approved approximately $40 million in funding for the initiative, Pride said. Among the plan’s package of reforms is the expansion of the Community Crisis Intervention Program, which sends out teams of workers to connect with young people in neighborhoods with high rates of violence.

The city has added more than 40 staffers in the Community Crisis Intervention Program since it started a little more than a year ago, a spokesperson for the Office of Violence Prevention wrote in an email to The Temple News. 

Christian Soltysiak, the interim executive director of CeaseFirePA, a gun control education and advocacy organization, said the recent increase in shootings is not necessarily a sign the Mayor’s plan is not working.

For instance, the increased shootings may be fueled by guns becoming more accessible, Soltysiak said. Approximately 3,700 guns were recovered by police in Philadelphia County in 2018, part of a 17 percent increase from 2014-18, according to the Pennsylvania Gun Tracing Analytics Platform. 

“I would think that the accessibility of guns has got to be one of the hardest parts of dealing with this, because there just are a lot of guns on the streets of Philadelphia,” Soltysiak said.

Pennsylvania requires background checks for handguns, maintains records of handgun sales and requires gun dealers to be licensed by the state, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a left-leaning gun policy organization. The state does not require gun owners to register their firearms, prohibit large-capacity ammunition magazines or regulate the sale of ammunition.

Council President Darrell Clarke, whose district encompasses Main Campus, said via a statement that “we need to do many things” to curb gun violence, including requiring handgun owners to report lost or stolen guns to the police and prohibiting guns at city recreation centers.

Philadelphia enacted its gun reporting law in 2008 but did not begin enforcing it until November 2019, according to a release from the city.

City Council passed so-called “Safe Haven” bills that ban guns at recreation centers in 2013 and 2019, only to be blocked both times by Pennsylvania’s preemption law, which bars local governments from regulating firearms, The Philadelphia Tribune reported.

“We are in a public health crisis and state of emergency when it comes to gun violence in Philadelphia, and we must do whatever it takes to get illegal guns out of our communities and make our neighborhoods safer,” Clarke said.

In 2020, of the 18 victims shot in the 22nd District, 10 were between the ages of 18 and 29, according to the dashboard. 

Two of the shootings in the 22nd District this year were fatal.

In 2019, 151 people were shot in the 22nd District, according to the dashboard. 

Alfred Sturfford, who lives on 17th Street near Oxford, said he feels like there has been a shooting every day of 2020. 

When asked why he thought the shootings had increased, Sturfford, 26, shook his head.

“It’s Philadelphia we at,” he said.

Correction: A previous version of this story indicated that the Community Crisis Intervention Program added more than 40 staffers in the 22nd Police District. The increase in staff reflects a change citywide, not only in the 22nd District.

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