Temple Police discusses gun violence prevention amid decrease in shootings

The department has seen positive results following increased foot patrols and other safety measures.

The police department has seen some positive results following some recent changes to campus security. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Updated 12/19 at 4:28 p.m.

Temple University Police Department has been working toward improving gun violence prevention efforts on and near Main Campus since evidence-based solutions were identified in a 131-page audit conducted last year by former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and his organization, 21CP Solutions. 

TUPD’s recent strategies include increased foot patrols and more collaboration with the Philadelphia Police Department, contributing to a more enhanced approach to safety on and near Main Campus, said Jennifer Griffin, vice president for public safety.

“We’ve had a couple of issues early on in the semester, but there is a feeling of more presence of police officers and less crime, less disorder,” Griffin said. “I’m also a trained observer. I’m looking for the security officers. I’m looking for police officers, I know where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there. So it’s very uplifting for me when I talk to faculty and students that say we are also noticing an increase in police presence, and we feel like this semester has gone very well.”

Shootings have taken a sharp decline in the 19121 and 19122 zip codes, which encompasses Main Campus, according to the Philadelphia Office of the Controller. In the 19121 area in particular, there has been roughly a 35.6 percent decrease in shootings since 2022 as of Dec. 12, the controller’s most recent update to the gun violence dashboard.

Amid this decrease, TUPD has been employing evidence-based solutions since last semester in accordance with Griffin’s five-pillar plan, which she devised after the April 19 release of the audit.

These solutions include implementing park-and-walk initiatives, modifying officers’ workdays to 12-hour shifts and fostering collaboration with the PPD. Griffin said the department has also mandated that officers spend at least 90 minutes on foot during their 12-hour shifts. 

The transition to 12-hour shifts has led to increased visibility and staffing levels. Some shifts now have up to nine officers and a supervisor patrolling on Main Campus, compared to the previous four to seven officers and one supervisor during eight-hour shifts.

TUPD’s heightened visibility is partially a result of its collaboration with PPD, Griffin said. 

“Increasing our collaboration with the Philadelphia Police Department also includes our relationship with the state license control enforcement unit,” Griffin said. “They come on and they help work on the weekends when we have a lot more volume. We utilize supplemental patrol with the Philadelphia Police Department, but we’re being very strategic with where we’re asking them to patrol and what we want them to do.” 

Shootings in Philadelphia have decreased by 22 percent, and homicides in the city have decreased by 26 percent since 2021. This marks a 19 percent decline compared to the previous year, a reduction moving faster than the national average, according to a Nov. 29 gun violence prevention progress report from the City of Philadelphia.

“I’m happy and pleased that we are seeing a decrease in our numbers in Philadelphia because it really affects our community in a negative way,” Griffin said. “It affects our ability to bring people to the city to see all the great things that it has here, and it affects our students wanting to go out and do things, so we are pleased with the decrease.”

The number of shootings in the city through October 2023 also decreased in comparison to shootings in October 2022, according to the city’s recent gun violence prevention progress report. 

Valerie Harrison, vice president for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, believes that while part of the decrease in gun violence can be attributed to returning to a pre-COVID-19 climate, investments in community-based organizations can also contribute to the decline.

The university has established Temple University Community Gateway in an effort to aid high-risk communities with resources such as programs that provide academic enrichment, job training and placement and other forms of poverty relief.

“These numbers are encouraging, but we can’t take our foot off the gas,” Harrison said. “In the future, our hope is that the TUCG will expand and provide new services in response to unmet community needs.”

Despite TUPD and TUCG’s efforts, some students say they haven’t noticed a reduction in gun violence on and near Main Campus.

“It kind of hasn’t changed,” said Jack Pudwill, a junior neuroscience major. “I do think I feel safer than I did on campus with expensive changes like more lighting. I see patrols more often when I walk home late at night, but what’s really on campus is different than what’s around it.” 

While the total occurrence of both fatal and non-fatal shootings in the city peaked in 2021, the numbers decreased marginally in 2022. The number of shootings within the TUPD patrol zone nearly tripled from 2018 to 2022, peaking last year, NBC10 reported.

Kiersten Daley, a former advertising major who is not currently enrolled at the university, believes that shootings haven’t lessened, they’ve just been underreported. Daley, who lives on 18th Street near Jefferson Street, outside of the TUPD patrol zone, has witnessed crime that has gone unreported, she said.

“I feel like shootings have actually been heightened,” Daley said. “There was literally a shooting right in front of my apartment, and it did not get reported anywhere [in the news]. Maybe shooting rates are dropping, but it might be because no one knows or cares about it enough to cover it anymore.” 

Although numbers are declining, the challenge comes with addressing numbers versus perception, Griffin said.

“When it’s in your community, it still feels very real,” Griffin said. “Even if the numbers go down, we’re continuing to work on long-term strategies to address crime and violence in the community.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to provide further clarification to a source’s quote.

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