PHILADELPHIA, PA – DECEMBER 15, 2022 − As the epidemic of gun violence continues to plague communities across the commonwealth, Senate Democratic Appropriations Committee Chair Vincent Hughes (D-Montgomery/Philadelphia) and House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton (D-Delaware/Philadelphia) on Thursday afternoon announced a historic investment to support law enforcement and gun violence investigation and prosecution efforts in Philadelphia.
Sen. Hughes and Leader McClinton were joined by city leaders at Mill Creek Recreation Center for the announcement of nearly $50 million in grants, awarded through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) and funded federally by the American Rescue Plan Act, for the city of Philadelphia Police Department, the District Attorney’s Office, and SEPTA.
The recreation center is where Tiffany Fletcher, a parks and rec worker and beloved mother, was tragically gunned down late this summer while on the job.
“Today, we are gathered here to honor Ms. Fletcher’s memory and send a message that we are committed to fighting the scourge of gun violence taking so many innocent lives across the commonwealth and here in Philadelphia,” said Senator Hughes. “This funding will play a crucial role in catching bad actors and getting them off the streets, so that our communities will be safer, and we won’t have to continue to mourn lives lost in senseless shootings.”
“Today’s historic investment in gun violence prevention, investigation and prosecution is another tool to make our communities safer,” said Leader McClinton. “While we gather here today at the site of an awful and horrific murder of a leader in our community, Tiffany Fletcher, this is a painful reminder that we must address this crisis with urgency. Our neighbors and especially children are counting on us to put all hands on-deck to save lives and fight for justice for every victim.”
The Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) was awarded a Local Law Enforcement Support grant of $25 million to fund a comprehensive upgrade to its crime lab. The funding will support information technology for the new crime-lab facility, such as cabling, computer terminals, phones, etc.; civilian forensic scientists, technicians and administrative staff; forensic acquiring the appropriate building/space, guarantee of funding to complete the project and closer examination of the feasibility and sustainability of 120 new civilian positions, and equipment such as DNA sequencing equipment, microscopes, fingerprint technology, firearms identification equipment, cellular phone analytical equipment.
“Philadelphia, like many cities across the country, continues to grapple with the scourge of gun violence hurting our communities. In our fight to make our city safer and protect our people, coordination and support is critical from all levels of government,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “We thank leaders in the Commonwealth for this historic investment in police and the investigation and prosecution of gun violence approved by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. This funding will allow Philadelphia to enhance law enforcement, gun violence investigation and prosecution, victims’ services and more. Thanks to our local State delegation, we will be able to make long-awaited and necessary improvements to better serve and protect the community.”
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (DAO) was awarded a Gun Violence Investigation & Prosecution grant of $20 million to expand digital surveillance capabilities, including video analytics and license plate reader technology; camera installation and maintenance; implement investigator and prosecutor case management system; support technology upgrades to the crime scene kits used by investigators; support the salary, benefits, and training of new full-time staff to support and utilize technology upgrades for investigation and prosecution of gun violence in Philadelphia, and related office supplies for funded staff.
“We know the technology upgrades and expansions this grant supports will make a difference in our fight against gun violence — because they already have. The Philadelphia Gun Violence Task Force uses intelligence- and electronic data-gathering tools to secure convictions in homicides and non-fatal shootings of defendants involved in group retaliatory violence, even when witnesses refuse to cooperate,” said Assistant District Attorney and GVTF Supervisor Bill Fritze. “The grant being announced today will help to significantly scale up use of these technologies.”
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) was awarded a Gun Violence Intervention & Prosecution grant of $4.9 million for its ZeroEyes software pilot program. The money will be used to install the software on security cameras, support the annual DeepZero license subscription for a two-year pilot project, and increase Transit Police overtime, to enable the partnership with other local law enforcement agencies to target gun violence in the transit network.
“SEPTA is committed to making our stations and vehicles safe and secure for our customers and employees,” said SEPTA General Manager and CEO Leslie S. Richards. “While serious crimes are rare on SEPTA, we are continually evaluating new technologies to keep the system safe. The funding in this grant will allow SEPTA to conduct a broader assessment of ZeroEyes capabilities while funding additional Transit Police personnel needed to respond and assist prosecutions. We are grateful to the General Assembly for providing additional resources to support SEPTA’s comprehensive and proactive safety and security efforts.”
In July, under the leadership of Governor Tom Wolf and Democrats in the General Assembly, Pennsylvania showed its commitment to violence intervention programs with the passing of the 2022-2023 state budget. The $135 million going toward law enforcement agencies and $50 million for efforts to investigate and prosecute gun-related crimes statewide were a huge victory for advocates in Philadelphia.
These crucial investments are also made possible thanks to the democratic leadership of President Joe Biden and his American Rescue Plan Act.
“Gun violence is an epidemic plaguing communities in Philadelphia and across the Nation and it’s going to take an all-hands-on-deck effort to break the cycle,” said Pennsylvania US Senator Bob Casey. “I am glad to see that Pennsylvania is using its American Rescue Plan dollars to support local law enforcement and the investigation and prosecution of gun violence cases in Philadelphia, but it’s going to take more action on the federal level to get at the root of this problem. This year, for the first time in three decades, Congress was able to pass meaningful legislation to address gun violence. But there’s far more that needs to be done and I’m going to keep pushing my Republican colleagues for more commonsense solutions in Congress.”
In the new year, additional funding will be awarded to community groups combating gun violence across the commonwealth. The $105 million for community violence intervention programs is also a historic investment in efforts to make the commonwealth safer for all.