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As Philadelphia Homicides Rise, Does City Use Anticrime Funds Well?

Philadelphia Ceasefire, which receives no direct city funding, is among a growing number of gun-violence prevention programs trying to stem the bloodshed in a city on pace to set a record number of homicides for a second straight year, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports .City government’s antiviolence spending, like the gun crimes themselves, is surging, $208.5 million, up from $155 million the year before. Funding for the Police Department is up eight percent to nearly $800 million. City officials, public health professionals, law enforcers, policy makers, and community leaders all say they want to curb gun violence with programs and tactics that work. Is the city allocating taxpayer dollars in the most efficient way to slow the casualty count and help suffering communities? Are there evidence-informed solutions that have been shown to make a difference?

Interviews with experts, community members, and city officials, and a review of antiviolence programs elsewhere, show that some city efforts have shown promise, but other key city programs, years later, still lack the required measures and goals to determine whether they are working. One ambitious violence-interruption program the city announced in 2020, Philadelphia READI, has yet to launch. Philadelphia Ceasefire, based at Temple University’s School of Medicine. It replicates the Cure Violence public health model, developed in Chicago and used in many cities in the U.S. and abroad, with different degrees of success. That model trains outreach workers and violence interrupters in conflict mediation. A 2017 Temple University study found that over two years, Philadelphia Ceasefire reduced shootings by 30 percent in its targeted zones in North Philadelphia. Despite its seeming success, the program did not get its $1.5 million partnership grant with the city and the U.S. Justice Department renewed after President Obama left office. City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart said that only 17 percent of city antviolence spending will be going to “intervention” programs, those that could have an immediate or short-term impact on stopping violence, such as deploying violence interrupters. “We fund intervention work at $6,000 per shooting while New York and L.A. fund it at $24,000 per shooting,” Rhynhart said. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done.”


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