(L to R) Forum moderators Chantay Love, Sam Searles, and Elinore Kaufman

As Philadelphians prepare to elect their first new mayor in eight years, public safety and gun violence are at the top of voters’ minds. 

Nearly three-quarters of residents say it’s the most important issue facing the city, according to a 2022 survey by Pew, with close to half of respondents saying a family member or close friend had recently been the victim of violent crime.

Reversing Philly’s violence epidemic is a foremost task facing anyone who wants to lead the city, which is why WHYY News, Billy Penn, and CeaseFirePA partnered to host a forum on the topic.

Seven of the declared Democratic candidates participated in the 100th Mayor: Restoring Safety Forum on Wednesday, March 1. The event was livestreamed via Facebook, and will be broadcast on WHYY TV-12 on May 2.

You can watch the whole thing below.

Questions for the mayoral contenders were sourced over the course of several listening sessions held around the city by CeaseFirePA and WHYY’s N.I.C.E. project. 

They were posed by a trio of moderators who represent various branches of the many sectors and groups galvanized to help fight the problem — a gun violence prevention reporter who does immersive coverage of the issue, a community leader who runs a nonprofit helping heal people impacted by violence, and a trauma surgeon who helps save shooting victims and provide support for those left behind.

Learn more about our forum moderators below.

Sam Searles

Sam Searles, Report for America corps member covering gun violence and prevention for WHYY News. (Sam Searles)

Sam Searles is a Report for America corps member covering gun violence and prevention for WHYY News.

Prior to joining WHYY, Searles was an on-air reporter for Suffolk University/New England Cable News and a contributor to Framingham Source, a news site covering Framingham, Massachusetts. She also interned at New Hampshire Public Radio in the creative productions unit. Searles holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a broadcast concentration from Suffolk University.

Post-graduation, she worked in Massachusetts as an anchor for Tyngsborough TV’s Candidate Forum special. As a teen, she served as community outreach director for the New Hampshire Legislative Youth Advisory Council.

Chantay Love

Chantay Love Mason, of EMIR (Every Murder Is Real) Healing Center. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Chantay Love is cofounder and president of EMIR Healing Center (Every Murder is Real), which works to heal communities one family at a time. The organization creates new models to support healing and to uncover trauma — with the goal of breaking the cycle of future violence

Love was raised in the Abbotsford Projects in Allegheny West, where most of her exposure to violence occurred. She is a survivor of incest and witness to domestic violence. On March 26, 1997, her only brother, Emir Peter Greene, was shot seven times in the back. The trauma from her loss and exposure to violence became the blueprint for her ongoing work. 

A certified crisis response and restorative justice trainer, Love has been appointed by the governor to serve on Pennsylvania’s Homicide Review Team and the Advisory Commission on African American Affairs. She holds a masters in human services administration from Lincoln University, and is a Christ servant minister for the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of United Methodist Church. 

Elinore Kaufman

Elinore Kaufman, trauma surgeon and medical director of the Penn Trauma Violence Recovery Program. (Penn Medicine)

Elinore Kaufman serves as medical director of the Penn Trauma Violence Recovery Program, which provides individualized support and case management to survivors of violent injury.

She’s an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania, where she works as a trauma surgeon and health services researcher. 

Her work is focused on reducing harm from injury and violence, including injury prevention and interventions to support holistic healing in injured patients. She holds an MD from Harvard University, and a masters in health policy from Penn, where she also completed her fellowship in trauma surgery and surgical critical care.

This story is a part of Every Voice, Every Vote, a collaborative project managed by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism. Lead support is provided by the William Penn Foundation with additional funding from The Lenfest Institute, Peter and Judy Leone, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Harriet and Larry Weiss, and the Wyncote Foundation, among others. Learn more about the project and view a full list of supporters here.

Danya Henninger is director and editor of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation, including the membership program. She is a former food and...