On September 26, 2021, Philadelphia achieved yet another dubious distinction. The city officially surpassed 400 murders, a 16% jump from this time last year according to the Philadelphia Police crime statistics website. By the end of 2020, Philadelphia had 499 murders and is on target to surpass those numbers if we do not have a shift — and soon.
Mayor Jim Kenney expressed his thoughts through a Tweet which read: “I am heartbroken and outraged that we’ve lost more than 400 Philadelphians to preventable violence this year. My heart goes out to all families suffering from enormous grief. Our administration continues to act with urgency to reduce violence and save lives.”
The citizens of this city are rightfully outraged, and fingers are being pointed in every direction. I daresay, we should be pointing it at ourselves. What we do not need is another press conference to bemoan what those of us who live and work in this city are already painfully aware of — we are a city at war with itself from a series of bad decisions on every level.
We shook our heads in horror and disbelief to learn, from unnamed anonymous sources, there were teenage assassins for hire, that there was a carjacking ring made up of 12–13-year-olds, that young people are reportedly saying on social media platforms that they would rather kill than to be killed when settling an argument. Where are their family members?
These young people were not born in a hatchery — and yet, we are told “we cannot hold parents accountable because they are struggling too.” So, do we just close our eyes and continue to wring our hands? Where is the solution in that?
Men and women are being caught on camera driving through the busiest intersections in broad daylight, spraying bullets and leaving a trail of bodies on the ground. In February , eight people were shot at the Olney Transportation Center. Police cars were stationed there to deter that incident from happening again. Yet, far from being deterred, another shooting happened less than three blocks away from the same area in September, where six people were shot and one man died. Where are the police, you ask?
In my humble opinion, overworked, understaffed, frustrated — and if you ask them like I did when a stolen car was recently left running in front of my driveway for hours, they will tell you that those who are intent on committing crimes are not afraid of them (the police).
They simply move their activities two or three blocks over from where a known patrol car is stationed .We need more officers on the streets, but as a direct result of the protests and riots in 2020 after George Floyd’s murder at the hands of one of their own, coupled with the coronavirus, more than a few have opted to retire. There are recruitments happening to stave off the bleeding, so we can only hope for the best over time.
Who will save the schools?
The schools in Philadelphia are another issue entirely. Since opening day earlier this month, there have been a litany of issues and none of them are without consequences to the educators, children, and their families. Between the continued complaints of asbestos, trash piled up on the playgrounds of some schools, the shortage of bus drivers, and food service not showing up to feed an entire school, when do we have time to focus on exactly what is being taught and the measured results of that?
There seems to be little fires everywhere daily, and while the responsibility lays at the feet of the current superintendent Dr. William Hite, he is due to leave at end of the school year. His successor should be a person with a cabinet that should be less reactive and more proactive with solutions, because a good part of why this city continues to burn, lie in the ravages of too many not being fully educated, and some not at all, according to the grim statistics we see about reading levels and math competencies.
Lastly, where is our city leadership?
What we have seen playing out publicly is a ton of bickering from people who should know better, and a lack of cohesiveness within their ranks. As a result, hurt feelings on their end have left us with more press conferences than we can stomach and inadequate support for those who are begging for funding to keep their neighborhoods from imploding.
The use of data to gain millions of dollars for the city has resulted in inadequate funding for those who are doing the intense healing work to help traumatized community members who have turned their trauma into anger. How many more bullets must we endure into bodies? How many more vigils will we have? How many more mothers and family members will be wailing over their unimaginable losses? We need to hold the blood-stained mirrors up to ourselves — we all must play a part in creating a better city to live and work in.
We are who we need. Money alone solves nothing in the wrong hands. Understanding the issues, listening to the constituents, and then working methodically on a plan is just the beginning. This climate of hate and fear will not change without it.
God help us all.
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