The Civic Coalition to Save Lives, a collective of civic, business, philanthropic, religious, and community leaders, marked its first anniversary with a Membership Forum at PECO, updating stakeholders on the strides the group has made in helping to reduce gun-related deaths in Philadelphia over the past year.
This notable achievement follows a recent announcement that Philadelphia’s homicide rate is declining faster than the national average. According to the City of Philadelphia’s latest gun violence report, there has been a significant 26% reduction in homicides since 2021, with a 19% drop from the previous year, crediting the Coalition as a pivotal force in this success.
In PECO’s Energy Hall, founding members of the Coalition shared the genesis of their efforts.
Faced with a record number of homicides in 2021, the Philadelphia Foundation and the William Penn Foundation partnered with Urban Affairs Coalition, The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Equity Alliance to initiate a broad civic campaign. Drawing lessons learned from successful models in other cities, the Coalition collaborated with national experts and engaged David Muhammad, executive director of the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, to create the strategy to reduce gun deaths in Philadelphia.
The Coalition’s research revealed a crucial insight: immediate intervention yields results. Cities with cross-sector collaboration and a shared strategy saw reductions in gun violence in as little as 6-12 months.
Pedro Ramos, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Foundation, emphasized the need for collaboration and ownership of a shared strategy. The Coalition brought together key stakeholders, including the mayor, district attorney, police commissioner, and business and non-profit partners, focusing efforts on the demographic responsible for the majority of gun violence, particularly individuals around the age of 30.
Shawn McCaney, executive director of the William Penn Foundation, highlighted the importance of data-driven intervention strategies, combining data analysis with the experiences of those closest to the crisis. Estelle Richman, Coalition Executive Director, stressed the significance of identifying high-risk individuals and providing tailored services, including law enforcement and proven intervention strategies.
Richman stated, “Intervention can stop the shooting, disrupt the cycle of trauma, and save lives now.”
The approach has yielded success: Approximately one-third of individuals at the highest risk of involvement in gun violence are now engaged in intervention programs.
To guide their efforts, the Coalition established three foundational goals:
- Educating Stakeholders: Over 1,000 key stakeholders have been educated on current obstacles, successes, and proven evidence-based strategies to combat gun violence.
- Creating a Gun Violence Intervention Coordination Center (GVICC) to expand the capacity, effectiveness, and coordination of the city’s intervention efforts by coordinating programs, supporting operations, driving resources, and providing strategic coordination.
The GVICC became operational in August, with dedicated office space and three full-time staff members.
- Establishing a Community Safety Civic Resource Board provides funding from the business and civic community to support the effort. This includes the establishment of a Re-grant Fund that has provided $700,000 in funding to improve the capacity and coordination of intervention programs. Recipients include each of the city’s Hospital Violence Intervention (HVIP) and Trauma Intervention Programs (TIP), as well as Community-Based Gun Violence Intervention Programs.
Emphasizing the power of collaboration, today’s forum included a panel discussion with key figures critical to reducing gun violence from the Philadelphia Police Department, the District Attorney’s Office, the City’s Group Violence Intervention program, EMIR Healing Center and Temple University Hospital’s Trauma Outreach program.
David Muhammad stressed the importance of continuity in partnerships and a steadfast commitment to the intervention model, “There is no finish line to this work,” he said. “It’s unrelenting. But as we now see in Philadelphia, it can and does get better.”
The Coalition looks forward to working with Mayor-elect Parker and the new Philadelphia Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel to support their strategy for reducing gun violence, building upon the progress already achieved.
“This is about making a real difference for individuals, for their families, for communities and for our entire city. This is about giving everyone in our city hope for a better tomorrow,” said Sharmain Matlock-Turner, CEO of the Urban Affairs Coalition.