Hosted by Capt. Christine McShea, the meeting was an attempt by the department to continue a dialogue with the community about crime prevention and the various programs offered around West Philadelphia.
“The warm weather is not helping me with crime right now,” McShea joked, noting that crime usually goes up when the weather turns nice. “A good deep freeze would be very helpful.”
McShea shared updated statistics on crime in the neighborhood. According to data from the Philadelphia Police Department, violent crime in the area is down 11% compared to 2019. However, arrests for narcotics and property crimes have increased over the past year.
Police have also been working in the area to get guns off of the street. The captain said truancy and curfew issues are related to increased shootings.
“Several of the shootings throughout the city have been late at night and they’ve been juveniles,” McShea said. “So, curfew continues to be a problem.”
She also warned residents about the increase in scams during tax season and offered crime prevention resources to prevent package theft, burglary, and other related crimes.
The second half of the meeting was opened to anti-violence initiatives, social justice, and trauma organizations in West Philadelphia to speak about resources they offer.
Kendra Van Water, director of the Intra Familial Homicide Initiative, spoke to residents about the Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia (AVP) and the programs offered to families affected by homicide.
“My job is to make sure that the families that are on scene and the survivors of homicide are getting the services that they need,” Van Water said. “Right now, there are a lot of people that are not getting what they’re supposed to be getting.”
AVP’s Families of Murder Victims advocacy program offers services to help families deal with the emotions surrounding a homicide with counseling services and assistance in navigating the investigation process, Van Water said.
Sunny Jackson, the trauma prevention and outreach coordinator at Penn Medicine, spoke to residents about the effect of gun violence on the community.
“We have too many young people with too many holes in them in our hospitals right now,” Jackson stated.
Jackson has hosted trainings for groups of kids as young as 14 and would consider training younger groups of kids that may need it.
“I made the mistake of asking, ‘Does anyone in this room know someone who’s been shot?’ and the entire room raised their hand,” Jackson said. “So, if that’s the situation you are living in, you’re not too young for this training.
Hugh “Tony” Thompson, a staff member from Drexel’s Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice, spoke to residents about the center’s Community Health Worker Peer Project, a paid training for men between the ages of 18 and 30 to work in health services and counsel others dealing with the aftermath of violence and trauma.
“What we’re doing is training young men to be healers and helpers,” Thompson said.
With a 94% job placement rating, the program was designed to help men in Philadelphia find jobs where they can use their own life experiences to help youth and other community members.
Thompson urged attendees at the meeting to grab an application to give to someone they know.
“There’s a lot of stuff that happens in this community,” Thompson said. “We’re here because we talk about crime. We talk about all these other things that are happening, but those that are closest to the problem are closest to the solution. And we do a very poor job, especially, of inviting young men into spaces like this.”
At the end of the meeting, McShea said that outreach was a way to bridge a gap between police and residents, improving relations in the community.
“We want to see everyone come out to these things,” McShea said. “We are here to help.”
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