By Charles Ellison | ecoWURD Managing Editor
We could reduce gun violence in Philadelphia by nearly 75%. Even better, we could do it without arresting a single person, funneling another dollar into the police department or waiting for state legislatures to pass gun control laws. How? Through a combination of what’s called “place-based strategies.” This is the theme behind “Philly Block by Block,” ecoWURD’s new information and advocacy campaign.
Every #PHLBlockbyBlock strategy is backed by research, and each one has been field tested. The strategies produce an almost immediate result and return on investment – and they intentionally work to protect the people that need them most first. They are also Black-centric, green-driven and jobs-growing. And ecoWURD, WURD Radio’s environmental justice journalism initiative, is starting the movement today to make it happen.
The solution to the gun violence problem isn’t pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into a police force that struggles to clear homicide cases (yet, seems to have very few problems with over-incarcerating Black people). We know for a fact we aren’t going to stop gun violence with hyped broken windows strategies and failed stop-and-frisk programs. The solution is to stop forcing people to live in environments that produce violence and start putting in the infrastructure that we know prevents it. This is how we save Philly Block by Block.
Research proves a reactionary policy like stop-and-frisk is a failure against gun violence. Yet, on the flip side, research proves a combination of the following four strategies is a complete success against gun violence:
- If we restore every vacant lot in Philadelphia, violent crime drops by 30%.
- If we clean up all the trash, violent crime drops by 10%.
- If we plant just 10% more trees, violent crime drops by 12%.
- If we restore and upgrade all houses, violent crime drops by 22%.
Through these four simple strategies above, we can eliminate upward of 74% of the violent crime in Philadelphia. We also create and expand local economies by encouraging the community entrepreneurship and jobs that are needed to do this work.
Gun violence in Black communities doesn’t happen because some people are just more violent than others. It happens because some environments produce more violence than others. A seed doesn’t grow unless it’s planted in healthy soil — and a community isn’t going to suffer from neighborhood gun violence unless its blocks have suffered from generations of disinvestment and neglect.
That’s why it’s no coincidence that the blocks with the most trash, fewest trees, most dilapidated housing and fewest clean outdoor spaces are the ones suffering the most gun violence. This lack of secure personal and public space creates the perfect environment for violence to grow and boil over.
Not only does violence thrive in these environments, we can see that it can’t sustain itself in communities where investments are made. It feeds off neglected spaces. It is also no coincidence that the communities with the most secure housing, the most trees, the cleanest streets and the greenest spaces do not suffer from high levels of violent crime.
So, instead of allowing violence and police officers to take over our communities, let’s demand better: Let’s invest and take back Philly Block by Block.
Join the movement by telling us how you’re improving and protecting the spaces you live in by sharing your strategy on social media at #PHLBlockbyBlock. And join us on our Summer of Freedom Neighborhood Love Tour throughout July and August as we learn more about the real way we end most of Philadelphia’s gun violence: through making investments, improving our environment and creating thousands of jobs as we do it. We’re going to educate, inform and mobilize to pressure policymakers into making these investments happen. That’s because we’re ready to help you take Philly back one block at a time – and take it back permanently.