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July 11, 2014, 4:40 am

Forum aims to stem gun violence

Philadelphia is on track to set a murder record this year — 75 percent of them with handguns — and city officials are trying to find new ways to stem the flow of blood.

Already the city has the highest murder rate of the nation’s 10 largest cities, a distinction it’s held since 2006.

And, the guns keep popping — with 208 murders this year, “Killadelphia” is earning its notoriety.

“Gun violence is the biggest problem we have,” said City Councilman Bill Greenlee. “The gun violence in this city is completely ridiculous, and we have to be open to everything and everybody to try and solve it.”

Greenlee was one of a handful of council members who attended a roundtable discussion with a group called GunCrisis.org on Tuesday at City Hall. The event, hosted by Majority Leader Curtis Jones, was intended to spark a discussion on how the city can deal with the murder epidemic.

GunCrisis.org was started by former Daily News photographer Jim McMillan, who launched it in March.

McMillan said he grew tired of documenting the city’s crime epidemic, and decided to do what he could to help end it. While he admitted that a number of factors go into creating the problem, he said that too much time was lost in discussing them and not enough on just trying to get people to lay down their guns.

“We have to avoid getting paralyzed by the myriad of social problems and causes, and just say, ‘what if we stop shooting?’” he said.

The toll in lives is particularly heavy in the Black community. Statistically, urban Black men are 200 times more likely to be murdered then their white counterparts. According to the Philadelphia Police Department, from January 2007 until June, 645 Black males between the ages of 7 and 25 were murdered in Philadelphia.

But, it has an enormous cost for the entire city.

“This is a pressing issue for all of us — no matter what part of the city you live in,” said Jones.

According to figures unveiled Tuesday, the total cost of the city’s violent crime to each resident is about $2,400. A 10 percent reduction in crime would save the city $17 million a year, or $240 per resident. A 25 percent reduction would save approximately $44 million annually.

McMillan said he endorsed a concept that has worked in Chicago, where violent crime is treated like a public health epidemic — using the same three steps that health officials used when faced with a health crisis: isolation, interruption and behavior modification.

Council members said they were open to any possible solution.

“We’ve tried lots of things, unfortunately, nothing has worked yet,” Greenlee said. “I listen to the news every night and think ‘My God, there is another person in the city getting killed.’”

Finding a way to end the violence is vital.

“In order for us to for us to move forward as a city, we have to have a safe city,” said Councilman Kenyatta Johnson. “I’m here to make sure that as we move forward, we have a progressive and an aggressive agenda focusing on the issue of gun violence.”

 

Contact staff writer Eric Mayes at (215) 893-5742 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .