Philadelphia, Gun Violence - and Ignoring Solutions
First come the tears, then the empty words, then it's back to business as usual.
As the New Year approaches, Philadelphians are now pretty much numb when it comes to gun violence fatalities. They may react emotionally to the latest murder statistic and say how awful the city has become, but when it comes to doing something about it -- like voting DA Larry Krasner out of office, which the city failed to do this past November -- they slip into a blindfold state of mind. The reason for this inertia can be attributed to partisan Philadelphia Democrats realizing that unplugging Krasner would set the stage for unplugging the city’s entire woke super structure that’s been building steadily since the days of former ‘law and order’ Mayor Frank Rizzo.
DA Krasner’s easy reelection victory in November 2021 was a confidence vote on his progressive, anti-mass-incarceration policies. Krasner, despite unrelenting criticism from city Democrats and Republicans, sailed to reelection, and that’s a bad sign for a city that has seen 509 homicide deaths (and counting) in 2021. Nothing, it seems, will convince average Philadelphians that real change begins at the top, and if you want to end the gun violence that everybody says they hate, then you have to change the leadership in City Hall.
Not even the November 28 killing of 21-year-old Temple student, Samuel Collington, who was shot twice in the chest and killed during an attempted robbery after returning home from his parents’ house for the Thanksgiving holiday, will change things in Philadelphia. While the emotional outrage expressed on local media over Collington’s death was profound, and the handwringing from Mayor Jim Kenney intense, all the city got in the way of assurance that it was going to find a practical solution for gun violence was a heartfelt public relations statement from the mayor describing Collington’s death as an “unimaginable loss.” The mayor also went on to say that, “Reducing gun violence remains the City of Philadelphia’s top priority. We will continue to work tirelessly with our community partners in response to the national public health emergency that gun violence presents.”
These are basically empty words that describe no program, no practical course of action, no mention of the possible return of stop-and-frisk, no concrete plan to combat the problem. Abstract sentiments like this have been sent out over the media airwaves a million times before, and can be summed up as: First we see the tears, then we hear the talk, but in the end it’s always a U-turn back to business as usual.
"This is a true tragedy in every sense of the word,” wrote Temple’s Executive Director of Public Safety Charlie Leone about the Collington tragedy.
As a father, this truly breaks my heart and is incomprehensible. Gun violence continues to affect local communities, and especially young lives, across our city and our nation. We fully understand concerns about individual safety, especially at a time when Philadelphia, like so many other U.S. cities, has experienced a sharp increase in violent crime over the past year.
This is the same Temple University that in 2020 voted that it would no longer provide financial support to the Philadelphia Police Foundation. At that time, then Temple president Richard Englert stated, "Upon review and community input, we have decided that the university will no longer provide this support. Instead, Temple will reallocate these funds to support social justice programs at the university.”
Was Englert talking about courses in how to burn down a McDonald’s restaurant near Rittenhouse Square, or how to get the city to remove a Christopher Columbus statue that is in a neighborhood crammed with Columbus admirers?
Not only did leftist Temple students in 2020 raise concerns about Temple’s relationship with the Philadelphia Police Department, they also encouraged the university to review the funding of the Temple [campus] Police Department, a sick irony when one considers where and how Collington was killed. Collington’s murder also caused the university to reexamine its campus police policies. Just this month, current Temple president Dr. Jason Wingard announced a police protection upgrade for students on campus. The change includes a 50% increase in the size of Temple’s campus safety force, a move that throws a wrench into the university’s former views on defunding the police.
While the Collington case made national news, it was one of several recent homicides in the city. In the Feltonville neighborhood on November 29, a 14-year-old boy, Samir Jefferson, was killed execution-style while waiting for a bus when multiple gunmen alighted from a car and shot him 18 times. What makes the Collington case so important, however, is its use as a prime X-ray of Krasner’s reckless dismissal of criminals in the name of ending mass incarceration.
Collington’s killer, 17-year-old Latif Williams, has been on Krasner’s radar since July 2019 when Williams was booked for selling drugs. These charges were withdrawn by Krasner one year later. During the George Floyd riots in May 2020, Williams was arrested for burglary, rioting and looting. He was also cited for spitting on police and breaking a police car window. These charges were dismissed by Krasner in September 2020. Then, on August 14, 2021, three months before the murder of Collington, Williams was arrested for carjacking, aggravated assault, robbery and possession of an unlicensed gun. The judge set a $200,000 monetary bail and a week later lowered the bail to $200,000 unsecured, meaning Williams could forget posting bail and rest easy under house arrest. These charges were withdrawn by Krasner on September 30.
The timeline of Williams’ crimes and their erasure by Krasner in the name of social justice, is just one example of what Philadelphia’s DA has done many times over since he became Philadelphia’s DA in 2017. It was Krasner, after all, who benefited from George Soros’ gift of $1.7 million to assure his victory in 2017. Krasner is but one of many DA’s across the country (all of them plugged in, like recharging cell phones, to the same social justice program) that Soros helped elect.
Mayor Kenney has only offered Hallmark Card-style platitudes about the city’s gun violence epidemic. His inability to move forward when it comes to offering solutions points to his not having a solution. Obtaining a practical solution would involve going against the ideological forces currently holding Philadelphia hostage. Finding a credible solution should mean using part of the $1.4 billion given by the federal government to the city under the American Rescue Plan.
Possible practical solutions to the gun violence problem might include ‘overfunding’ the police department until the crisis is under control, or the implementation of wide-scale stop-and-frisk policies, or maybe even putting the city on a crime lockdown until the inhabitants of the asylum get their act together. But solutions like this would risk alienating Kenney from Krasner and the political forces on the left. In Philadelphia, any solution to the problem must first be worked through a woke network that doesn’t leave much wiggle room for ideas that negatively impact the emerging victim criminal class.
Mayor Kenney has become a prisoner of his own leftist ideology. Wringing your hands at the latest gun fatality or writing statements that are not solutions but blather is not an answer; it’s a personal catharsis.
Perhaps the strangest thing about the Collington case -- I write this only to illustrate how entrenched leftist politics is in Philadelphia and in all of its universities and schools of higher education—is that immediately after Collington’s death, the victim’s friends announced on social media that Collington was a Marxist, and as such would not want people using his death to tinge or condemn the social reform program of DA’s like Larry Krasner.
While there might be hope for Philadelphia at some point in time, at this date it’s certainly hidden from the horizon and nowhere on the radar.
Thom Nickels is a Philadelphia-based journalist/columnist and the 2005 recipient of the AIA Lewis Mumford Award for Architectural Journalism. He is the author of fifteen books, including Literary Philadelphia and From Mother Divine to the Corner Swami: Religious Cults in Philadelphia. Death at Dawn: The Murder of Kimberly Ernest will be published in 2022.