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(PHILADELPHIA) — Philadelphia, which is battling an epidemic of gun violence, has reached 300 homicides for the year, police said.
The 300th victim was an 18-year-old man shot multiple times Monday night, according to ABC Philadelphia station WPVI. Three weapons were used and at least 54 ballistic items were recovered from the scene, Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Frank Vanore told reporters.
Other victims this year include a 16-year-old boy who was shot three times in the face and a 17-year-old boy shot dead near his high school in mid-afternoon.
“Every act of gun violence is an indescribable tragedy. The fact that our city has lost 300 souls so far this year is devastating,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney told reporters on Tuesday. “The rise in gun violence we have seen in our city and in cities across the country hurts us all.”
This time last year, the city had 304 homicide victims, police said. Last year, Philadelphia hit an all-time high, ending the year with 562 homicides.
For the mayor, easy access to firearms is the biggest problem.
“In Pennsylvania – unlike New Jersey, New York or California – it’s very, very easy to get a gun. You and I could drive all the way to Bucks County [in Pennsylvania] this weekend and probably buy a bag of guns and resell them in the trunk of my car,” Kenney told a reporter. “And that’s the big deal.”
The mayor stressed, “We implore everyone, from elected officials to community members, to work together to find solutions to address this deeply complex issue.”
“To address the availability and ease of access to firearms, we will always fight an uphill battle. The police department is investigating these crimes and continues to remove a record number of illegal firearms from our streets, but they need the public’s help to solve these crimes,” he said.
With so many young people experiencing gun violence or committing violence, Erica Atwood, senior director of the city’s Office of Policy and Strategic Initiatives for Criminal Justice and Public Safety, highlighted programs available for high-risk youth. .
“These programs focus on communities most vulnerable to gun violence, and are free and open to youth and young adults,” she said at Tuesday’s press conference. “In addition, there are a number of community organizations that we have funded through our Community Expansion Grants that serve young people in vulnerable communities.”
The city is also aiming to keep children safe with a curfew in effect this summer for children 17 and under, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Curfew centers are now available, Atwood said. If “parents have two or three jobs and don’t have the ability to have child care,” she said, the curfew center “offers us, as a community, an opportunity to know where our children are and to really rebuild that connective tissue in the neighborhoods to take care of each other.”
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