Police investigate the scene of a shooting in January that involved a patrol officer being shot multiple times by a man in West Philadelphia. The department has reported 82 homlicides, a 22 percent jump. as of April 6 from the same period in 2016. (AP Photo/Joseph Kacxmsrek/File)

Nearly 20 percent of the 36,561 residents living in the Juniata Park-Feltonville area of the city have no job, while 36.9 percent are without a high school education.

There, the poverty rate sits at more than 40 percent.

Also, the most recent Philadelphia Police Department data revealed that from March 5 to April 4, the area recorded 29 violent crimes, which include rape, robbery and assault, and 93 property crimes, which include burglary and auto theft.

Over the same period in nearby Kensington, where the population stands at just over 50,000 and the unemployment rate at 19.1 percent, there have been 55 violent crimes – including three slayings – and 141 property crimes.

Overall, the police department reported 82 homicides as of April 6 throughout the city in 2017, compared with 67 last year during the same period and the highest number since 92 killings in 2012.

The City of Brotherly Love has far too much crime, Philadelphia’s state legislators say.

On Thursday, state Rep. W. Curtis Thomas (D-181) joined city and clergy officials at a press conference to bring attention to the brazen fatal shooting of three men in the 1100 block of West Stiles Street. The crime occurred in North Philadelphia just one block from a school as students were being dismissed.

“We cannot heal until the people who did this are off the streets,” Thomas told reporters, adding that the Stiles Street shooting occurred because the perpetrators were confident that, despite the crime being committed in broad daylight, no one would identify them.

“We need to bring out the best in ourselves in painful moments and to allow certain acknowledgements to bring an end to senseless acts of violence,” he said.

“And, the violence hasn’t stopped. On the same day as the shootings of the three men, a 52-year-old male was gunned down and killed at 23rd and Harold streets and the suspect is still at large,” Thomas added.

At the press conference, Thomas noted that two years ago, there were 105 bills introduced in the General Assembly on the issue of gun violence but none made it to the governor’s desk.

He called on residents to use social media and other means to communicate with police and urged parents who are home during the day to accompany their children to school and to make sure someone is there to pick them up.

“We must find ways to promote all lives have value and it has to start as early as possible,” said Thomas, who is in his 15th term at the state Capitol. “Each of us must teach one another as well as our children about the value of life.

“What happened on West Stiles Street, 23rd and Harold streets, and Hunting Park should never happen again,” said the lawmaker, whose district comprises a part of North Philadelphia that is situated southwest of the Juniata Park-Feltonville area.

Others also have expressed their dismay over the ongoing violence in the city.

During one recent three-day period in areas encompassing Juniata Park-Feltonville, Hunting Park, Kensington and Port Richmond, Philadelphia police made 176 arrests and seized $226,000 worth of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, Oxycontin, crack and other drugs along with 21 weapons and 14 automobiles.

“Where there are drugs — crime and violence are sure to follow,” said state Rep. Isabella Fitzgerald (D-203), echoing what several lawmakers describe as an uphill battle to rescue Philadelphia neighborhoods from the dread of crime, drugs, violence as well as a lack of jobs and social services support.

Rep. Joanna McClinton (D-191), who serves on the House Human Services Committee, said, “The vast numbers of Pennsylvanians falling victim to the opioid crisis has brought attention to the horrors of drug usage and availability across the state.

“It will take lots of strong partnerships between law enforcement, leaders and the community to combat this epidemic,” she added.

While drugs are certainly at the center of the crime crisis, the lack of jobs with family-sustaining wages and an air of hopelessness has crippled many residents, said state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-7).

Finding a solution through legislation poses challenges, particularly because the state currently faces a tight budget that has a $3 billion deficit, Hughes said.

“There’s a lack of jobs and a lack of a strong support system in the community,” he said. “We need to come up with an economic and a spiritual plan so people can believe there is hope and opportunity for them.”

Currently, there’s a package of proposed bills that could help offer solutions, said Hughes, whose district includes parts of Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.

However, poverty, the lack of jobs and social services that have been stretched thin, and less-than-ideal schools has worn on the psyche of Philadelphians, and he’s hopeful that legislatively and otherwise, officials can help ease those burdens for residents, the state legislator said.

“So, this makes it very hard, particularly when folks are not investing in programs or jobs, but very hard even for policing,” said Hughes, who has spent more than 30 years as a representative in Harrisburg.

“Any officer will tell you that when you have run down buildings and the neighborhood is torn down, it creates more responsibility for police, so all of this has to be a massive effort,” he said, adding that it’s imperative that substantial investments are made in every city in the Commonwealth including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Scranton, Allentown and other areas.

Some of the legislative efforts put forth include those from state Rep. Edward Gainey (D-24), who is seeking to require insurance plans to provide access to abuse-deterrent opioid drugs while also prohibiting emergency responders from prescribing long-acting opioid painkillers in emergency rooms.

Additionally, state Rep. Angel Cruz (D-180) has proposed legislation that would give the state police the right to maintain a registry of all guns and gun owners in a centralized database.

“I would certainly support Gainey’s package, which will provide additional tools in the ongoing fight against opioid prescription and heroin drug misuse and abuse,” Fitzgerald said. “I also stand behind Cruz’s proposed legislation requiring safe and responsible gun ownership,” she said.

http://www.phillytrib.com/news/city-of-brotherly-love-s-crime-rate-decried/article_6e9aac51-51de-5612-a34b-c8493e0e0028.html

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