As the gun violence epidemic surges in Philadelphia, officials and community leaders are struggling to fight it in the face of the twin drags of the coronavirus and pervasive income inequality.
This is not just a Philly thing. Experts believe the pandemic is exacerbating gun violence around the nation — in part because community intervention efforts have to be completely redesigned to handle social distancing.
What does distinguish Philly among the biggest U.S. metro areas, however, is its poverty rate. As of last year, 24.5% of households lived below the federal poverty line, nearly 380,000 Philadelphians — and that’s before the pandemic’s economic effects drove many people into financial distress.
A new map from District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office puts the relationship between income inequality and gun violence in the city on stark display.
According to the DAO, here’s where the above data comes from:
Tracts, poverty, and population data were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 2018 estimates. The shootings per 1,000 residents rate was calculated by taking the count of shootings (2015-2019) in each tract divided by the total tract population times 1,000. Tracts with less than 1,000 people were considered low population and excluded from analysis.
Many groups in Philadelphia are working on solutions.
City Council’s committee on gun violence prevention has been holding virtual hearings on the situation, where residents have offered ideas. Community groups and local celebs like rapper Beanie Sigel have been encouraging people to speak up about what’s going on in their neighborhoods, in line with the city’s new “Group Violence Intervention” plan.
The new Credible Messenger Reporting Project will recruit and train community members to produce stories about “about the experience of living with gun violence, as well as identifying its root causes and potential solutions.”
These efforts may offer hope, but they don’t make the grim stats any easier to look at.
More than 1,100 people had been reported shot in Philadelphia as of mid-August, a 36% increase over last year to date. Young people are increasingly affected, with an average of three minors shot each week. July’s total of 215 people shot is higher than any month in the past five years.
Killings are up too. Over 250 have died by gunshot this year, 30% more than last year to date. Related arrests have increased, though not at the same pace: homicide arrests are up 13% over last year while charges for aggravated assault with guns are up 1%.
Billy Penn publishes a weekly gun violence tracker with citywide stats every Tuesday in our newsletter, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting. (Subscribe for free here.)
Find our list of resources for those affected by gun violence here.