We can end gun violence and stop the flow of illegal weapons onto our streets by enforcing current laws and advocating for commonsense gun laws.
We need to stop the violence, without resorting to incarceration. I believe our society cannot begin to address the problems in underserved neighborhoods, school and communities until we stop the violence. A reduction in violence, and the attendant repairing of the fractured relationship between the community and the police, is the prerequisite to meaningful investment of public and private resources in these very communities.
Stopping the violence, reduces the number of people of jail. Stopping the violence, allows an immediate reduction in the need for police interactions with people in minority communities. Stopping the violence, allows neighborhoods to prosper while attracting business, jobs and investment. I envision a future for Philadelphia, where less gun violence, leads to less incarceration. Consequently, the reallocation of resources from prisons and police, can safely and naturally flow to education and communities.
Researchers out of Kennedy School of Government at Harvard have created and tested focused deterrence in violence plagued cities across the county. Researchers have found that small groups of offenders drive the violence in individual neighborhoods. Therefore, a strategy of disrupting this group dynamic, which promotes violence as an acceptable method of addressing real and perceived displays of disrespect from others, will stop a large volume of the violence. The citywide communication of the antiviolence message, coupled with meaningful examples of the consequences that will be brought to bear on groups that break the rules, can weaken or eliminate the “kill or be killed” norm as individuals recognize that their enemies will be operating under the new rules as well.
After identifying the groups responsible for the violence, law enforcement, and all their partners, organize call-in sessions for the members of these groups. At these call-in sessions, a clear and consistent message of nonviolence is delivered by law enforcement officials, social service providers, and community members. Law enforcement representatives explain that there will be focused scrutiny on subsequent violence. To make this promise real, the District Attorney has to be able to swiftly prosecute those who refuse to put the guns down. On the other hand, those that stop, and want a way out, find that helping hand from those same law enforcement officials, social service providers, and community members. Community‐based action in focused deterrence strategies helps remove the justifications used by offenders to explain away their responsibility for the targeted behavior. In call‐ins and on the street, community members effectively invalidate the excuses for criminal behavior by challenging the norms and narratives that point to racism, poverty, injustice, and the like.
The success of any focused deterrence program depends on leadership from the District Attorney and consistent buy-in and cooperation from all the stakeholders in the program. I foresee a partnership between the District Attorney’s Office, along with the Attorney General, federal law enforcement, City Council, the Mayor’s Office and community groups. The program succeeds everywhere cooperation and cohesion exists. The project fails every time politics and divisive behavior, such as we see repeatedly with Mr. Krasner, emerges to divide the stakeholders of the program. The research has made clear that the successful implementation of focused deterrence strategies requires the establishment of a “network of capacity” consisting of dense and productive relationships among these diverse partnering agencies. Cities without robust networks in place have found it difficult to implement and sustain focused deterrence strategies. While there are many superb individuals and groups trying to make a difference in Philadelphia right now, without the coordination with the District Attorney’s Office, they are simply set up for failure.
I believe in the words that David Kennedy, the creator of Focus Deterrence, wrote in the conclusion of his book Don’t Shoot:
The worst of the street craziness has to stop. People have to be able to use the streets and the parks, kids have to be able to go to school, the community has to be able to function. Not everybody’s going to stop hustling, it’s not going to happen. But if you’re going to hustle find a way to do it that makes it invisible, takes it deep underground. The drug dealers would rather things be quiet and safe, even they don’t like the chaos. The cops and the community don’t have to approve, don’t have to turn a blind eye, don’t have to negotiate. But as long as there’s violence, public madness, that’s where law enforcement should go. The rest of it we can worry about later. Like we do in white neighborhoods.
Nobody should go to prison who doesn’t have to. We have to stop locking everybody up. Even the cops agree with that. If the street guys will listen to a warning, listen to the community, put their guns down, keep it on the down low, maybe take help, and it means they don’t have to get locked up, fine.