Photo credit: Laura Smythe / Philadelphia Business Journal

Philadelphia’s increase in gun violence reflects an erosion of civil society

Article published by the Philadelphia Business Journal on July 25, 2022. Revised 10 am.

Philadelphia faces an ever-growing increase in gun violence. Mayor Jim Kenny and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw make obligatory statements condemning the growing number of homicides in Philadelphia, but they come up short on solutions to the problem. 

Through July 11, 300 homicides have been committed in Philadelphia this year, and by the time you read this article, that number will have been surpassed. Given the current trend, homicides in 2022 will significantly exceed the 562 committed in 2021. That’s more than double those committed in 2018. These numbers don’t include the people who were injured by gun violence. 

We are watching the erosion of civil society. Crimes are occurring in Philadelphia that shake our sensibilities. Carjackings have tripled since 2019. On June 24, a boy and girl, both 14 years old, were charged with using a traffic cone to murder a 53 year-old man. On July 14, a 14 year-old boy fired a gun multiple times at a man on the 15th street platform of the Market-Frankford subway station at 12:30 pm, a time of day when the subway station is crowded with passengers. People are rethinking their use of the subway for fear of being a victim of a violent crime.

In October 2012, Philadelphia City Council passed Driver Equity legislation, designed to address the disparate number of traffic stops among different races for minor infractions. One wonders if the unintended consequence of this legislation, passed for good reason, has contributed to the disrespect of our laws. 

Crime in Philadelphia is having a direct impact on city life. On July 14, Philadelphia Councilmember Cindy Bass announced that she was canceling her annual summer event series due to the threat of gun violence. In a letter to her constituents, she wrote, “Your safety is my number one priority.” Other organizations are also canceling events.

Gun violence has an impact on small business owners, as they decide whether to limit their hours of operation, or abandon Philadelphia.

Photo credit: Laura Smythe / Philadelphia Business Journal

Many blame the proliferation of guns as the cause of the growing violence in our city. Guns are in the hands of high-risk people. Moving forward, our leaders need to ensure the tightest screening and severe criminal penalties if screening laws are flouted. Some Republicans will claim this is a violation of the Second Amendment. They have yet to propose a credible path towards a reduction of gun crimes. 

Some people have proposed increasing the practice of “stop and frisk” by the police. An April 2020 report filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania states that “hit rates for weapons on frisks of people who police claim to have a reasonable suspicion [of being] ‘armed and dangerous’ remains close to negligible levels.” The practice of stop and frisk disproportionately impacts people of color, further undermining the trust that this community has in the police, which is counter-productive. 

Regarding the number of guns already in the community, that train has left the station. The only practical way to reduce gun violence is through the leadership of parents, teachers, religious leaders and our elected officials. 

Young people need men from their community to act as mentors and be role models. They need to be taught values. They need to be taught not to pull out a gun and shoot if they perceive that they are disrespected or as a way of winning an argument. They need to be taught how to de-escalate situations, rather than inflame them. They need to be taught self-discipline and how to settle arguments through words, not violent actions. Street gun culture needs to change. District Attorney Larry Krasner needs to enforce laws already on the books. Don’t expect results in the short-term.

Additional police officers need to be hired by the city and by the SEPTA transit system. If pay is an issue in hiring quality officers, pay needs to be increased, as SEPTA is in the process of doing. In addition, SEPTA is reassigning 25 additional officers from administrative jobs to ride the subways. 

Only officers with good critical judgment should be hired. There are too many instances across the country where officers who lack this trait take actions that alienate the black community. City Council members need to think through the unintended consequences of the laws they are about to pass, an issue common with many legislative bodies.

It’s been said that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” If nothing changes, we can expect the same result—increasing gun violence.

 

Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com.

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