Philadelphia, February 19, 2015 – Mayor Michael A. Nutter delivered a major keynote address on his Administration’s efforts to reduce youth violence across the City of Philadelphia after a meeting with philanthropic funders and partner agencies at Temple University. His prepared remarks are as follows, please check against delivery:
“I just finished a meeting with local funders and partners investing in youth violence prevention in our region. I got to hear from them first-hand about their work and coordinated efforts they are engaged in to address this serious and pressing challenge in Philadelphia and across the Nation.
I want to say thank you for your commitment to making Philadelphia a safer city for every resident and your work to steer young people away from violence and crime and toward positive and productive opportunities.
Over the last few years, I have had countless opportunities to tout the change taking hold in Philadelphia, the sense of hope and optimism for our City, the positive trend line Philadelphia is now on.
Our population is growing. Businesses are relocating here and development is occurring at an unparalleled level. Our unemployment rate is at its lowest point since 2008 and the number of people working in Philadelphia has not been this high since 2001. Our educational attainment rates are up for both high school and college students. Homicide and violent crime rates are down considerably – the murder rate is at its lowest point since 1967 and violent crime is at a 30-year low.
But while the trends are clearly positive, there are some deeply rooted challenges that still threaten the bright future for our city – poverty, lack of educational opportunity and attainment, unemployment and violence. These challenges are interconnected and they affect every person in our City.
Philadelphia’s most violent, crime-ridden neighborhoods are also most often the places with the highest unemployment rates, highest levels of people living below the poverty line (mainly children and seniors), and lowest high school graduation rates.
All three issues are inextricably linked. Quality educational opportunities lead to more students who go on to higher education, who are less likely to be involved in a violent crime, and who are more likely to gain the skills needed to find employment.
Young people without that high-quality education face a harsh reality and are often not equipped with the interpersonal skills or options to navigate past these difficult circumstances.
Notwithstanding all the positive trends I mentioned earlier, if Philadelphia does not address youth violence with collective efforts, our progress cannot and will not be sustained.
Today, I want to share with you the long-term approach my Administration has taken to address all of these challenges simultaneously and comprehensively. We call it the Youth Violence Prevention Collaborative – a group of government, philanthropic and private-sector partner organizations committed to ending youth violence in Philadelphia through a strategy which will develop and grow for many years to come.
With our partners in the Collaborative, we have begun to build something: a safety net of security for our city, which began with a new way of looking at these interrelated problems and a new way of working together to connect the solutions. Our net is still a work-in-progress as we weave together an array of services across Philadelphia.
Last year, 248 Philadelphians were murdered on our streets. 40% of homicide victims are young people 24 years old or less. So on average, about 100 of those 248 murder victims were young people.
Further, about 75% of the homicide victims and 80% of the known perpetrators we arrest fir of violent crime in the City of Philadelphia are young, African-American men.
In the United States today, on average, one in three – that’s one in three – African-American men will have contact with the criminal justice system at some point during their lives.
But these numbers don’t and can’t tell the whole story. These victims and perpetrators are more than numbers on a tally sheet. They are fathers, sons, brothers, cousins, nephews – our fellow citizens’ loved ones and friends.
On August 20, 2014, a 16-year old was killed by a gunshot wound to the chest fired by a 17- year old in the Point Breeze section of South Philadelphia. On New Year’s Day, an 18-year old was killed by multiple gunshot wounds to the head fired by a 16-year old in the Olney section of North Philadelphia. And on January 16, 2015, a 14-year old was killed when he was stabbed in the chest by a 16-year old at the intersection of 46th & Market Streets in West Philadelphia.
Different neighborhoods, different weapons, different motives. But they all have a few things in common: they were all young, they were all boys, and they were all black.
And even though these young men all share similar characteristics, black-on-black violence is not an isolated problem and it doesn’t just affect the black community. It affects every member of every community in our city and beyond.
Violence and death rip out the heart and soul of a community, it tears apart our civil society and lessens the ties that bind us as human beings. There are other impacts as well.
It raises our costs to ensure public safety and reduces our budget to provide other services like recreation centers and libraries. It impacts the entire city as a public health crisis: over time wiping out thousands of young men, imprisoning others and the trauma inflicted and inflicting trauma on thousands more.
The collateral damage is outrageous: a 3-year-old girl shot in the crossfire while she was sitting on her front steps getting her hair braided; an elderly man gunned down in his home as he was getting dressed when a bullet pierced his bedroom wall.
The trauma is internalized by the victims, their families, the perpetrators’ families, their neighbors and even the people passing by on the street who see the crime scene tape blowing in the wind, the chalk outlines and the shell casings in the street. The trauma and fear spread through a community like a virus.
I want to share with you the story of another young man who was arrested and charged with murder this past December, who likely witnessed violent and traumatic events at an early age.
On September 8, 2014, 17-year-old Naaire Murray was found dead from a gunshot wound to the chest in his home at 24th & Huntingdon Streets, just south of Lehigh Avenue. The apparent motive was an argument. Arrested for the crime was 18-year-old Jason Cassius Broaster, who had fled to Georgia. If his last name seems familiar to you, it probably should.
Jason’s father, Cassius Broaster, and his uncle, Jerome “Mo” Broaster, were alleged to have instigated a gun-fight the morning of February 11, 2004 outside Pierce Elementary School, a gun battle that resulted in the death of 10 year old Faheem Thomas Childs. Two other men, Kareem Johnson and Kennel Spady, were convicted of killing Childs in 2006.
According to sources, Cassius Broaster’s girlfriend told police that his car had been sprayed with bullets after he dropped off their son at school. Jason Broaster would have been 8 at the time.
Then-Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson had called the Broaster brothers “the worst people in the city as far as violence is concerned”. In 2012, the Federal government caught up with them, along with brothers Elliott and Larkeem, and indicted all of them on drug charges.
Now, there is no way of knowing all of the details of that day or if the son Cassius Broaster was dropping off at Pierce Elementary that morning was Jason, but it is very likely it was Jason and that speaks to the violent environment in which young Jason Broaster grew up in and now is a perpetrator of violence himself – he is now involved in a cycle of senseless, intergenerational, almost-unending geographic pattern of violence.
The 2004 shooting at Pierce and the shooting 10 years later that killed Naaire Murray happened within 4 blocks in the same neighborhood of North Philadelphia in the 22nd Police District.
How do we confront violence that is so deeply engrained in generations of families, behavior that is decades in the making?
Crime and violence aren’t created in a vacuum. I don’t believe people are born bad – something happens along the way. There are a series of moments in their lives that set them on a path toward making good or bad choices.
And therein lies the hope: if there are moments in a child’s life when they have choices to make, then there are opportunities for us to provide them with the knowledge, tools, support and guidance in advance so that they are empowered to make the right choices.
We need to help children navigate the dangerous ‘forks in the road’. We need to start paying attention to every, single child. We need to envision a city where every child has their own, what I’m calling, ISP: an Individualized Success Plan.
We need to help young people at critical points in their lives through a web of overlapping institutions and services that creates one, comprehensive safety net of security, which will catch and protect children who are growing up in dangerous environments.
I believe we are up to the task. If any city in America can lead the way on this issue, it is Philadelphia. We are a City of firsts and we can be the first to tackle, in a meaningful, measurable, comprehensive, impactful way, one of the great societal crises of our time.
My Administration has been working on this issue for the last seven years, and we will continue to work on it until literally my last day in office.
When I became Mayor I asked Charles Ramsey to serve as Police Commissioner and brought on a former public defender, Everett Gillison, as the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety. We built a public safety team, including a strengthened Criminal Justice Advisory Board (CJAB), that supports a place and community-based strategy to effectively address youth violence.
I must say, however, that our approach was received skeptically at first. Philadelphia had been through decades of previous attempts to quell the violence, and citizens wanted to know what would be different this time.
The difference was our emphasis on community, on building more trust between police and citizens, and a thoughtful, long-term approach.
We knew that just adding more police would do little if the neighbors didn’t trust them. Policing is not the key to community safety, a strong community is. We modeled our approach after a time in this city when a sense of community bound neighbors and neighborhoods together – when there was a sense of shared destiny and responsibility. I lived that experience growing up in West Philadelphia. Many people I speak to had that experience – it is not unique.
So our Administration took a “listen-first” approach to what different communities across our city needed in order to feel safe in their homes and on the street, and unsurprisingly, every neighborhood’s needs, concerns and ideas were different.
This led to an initiative called PhillyRising, launched in 2010 with funding from the Department of Justice, which targets neighborhoods that are plagued by chronic crime and quality-of-life concerns, and establishes partnerships with community members to address their concerns and their ideas, not ours.
PhillyRising is based on a common sense and flexible use of the ‘broken windows’ theory of policing, and works with the community instead of just sending police into neighborhoods like an occupying force.
For example: near McPherson Square in Kensington, neighbors complained about a dead, hollow tree which was being used as a stash place by drug dealers. In addition to increased police patrols to apprehend the dealers, PhillyRising coordinated City services to remove the tree and clean up the square to make it less conducive to criminal activity. This initiative is currently operating in 19 neighborhoods, with plans to expand to 25 communities across the city.
As PhillyRising established itself in our city, we sought to increase the effectiveness of our efforts by working with partner agencies to bring additional resources to our neighborhoods.
We secured grants – state, federal, private, philanthropic – and joined initiatives that support our underlying goal: to interrupt and disrupt the cycle of poverty and crime that leads to youth violence in targeted areas of our city.
In 2012, the City of Philadelphia received two grants from the U.S. Department of Justice. We joined the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, which allowed us to establish our own Youth Violence Prevention Collaborative, and we received a demonstration grant for our place-based, youth violence prevention strategy in the city’s 22nd Police District.
Also in 2012, in response to the overwhelming effect of violence on the black community, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and I established Cities United, a national partnership to eliminate violence related injuries and deaths of African-American men and boys. Today, 62 Mayors across the country are engaged in this partnership.
In 2013, the Mantua neighborhood in West Philadelphia was designated by President Obama as one of the nation’s first federal Promise Zones, an initiative designed to address the challenges associated with deep and persistent poverty in specific areas.
Also in 2013, the City received a federal Choice Neighborhoods Grant from HUD to develop a comprehensive neighborhood revitalization plan for North Central Philadelphia aimed at three core goals: affordable housing, opportunities for individuals and families, and stabilizing neighborhoods. These three goals mirrored issues already identified in Philadelphia as key challenges in our violence prevention strategy.
In 2014, President Obama launched, and Philadelphia joined, the ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ initiative which parallels Cities United: to improve opportunities for men and boys of color. With MBK, the very highest levels of our government have publicly recognized the impact of losing so many African-American, Latino and other men and boys of color is having on our nation, and the work is progressing.
Last November, Philadelphia hosted a local action summit for My Brother’s Keeper and this coming April we will host a national convening for Cities United.
Our Administration pursued each one of these initiatives or grants because they supported and reinforced our new, comprehensive strategy being developed by the Youth Violence Prevention Collaborative. All of this work is interrelated; all of this work is on purpose. There is a strategy.
Created in partnership with the Stoneleigh Foundation and more than 100 local organizations, the mission of the Collaborative is to prevent youth violence in Philadelphia by creating a safe environment that supports the development of healthy, productive citizens through a long-term, city-wide, multi-disciplinary approach – focusing on youth ages 14-24.
And since everything needs to begin somewhere, we chose to focus the work of our new Collaborative in the section of the city where it is needed the most: the 22nd Police District in North Philadelphia, which encompasses the neighborhoods of Strawberry Mansion, Brewerytown, Sharswood, North Central, and parts of Allegheny West.
The 22nd District is an area that has been plagued by violence and related issues for more than 40 years. Its’ neighborhoods have some of the highest shooting and homicide rates, highest poverty and unemployment rates, and lowest graduation rates in the city. We decided to take on the toughest challenge out there.
In 2014, 117 people were shot in the 22nd District and more than half of those victims, 62, were youth. Tragically, 29 people were victims of homicide in the District, and 8 of them were 24 years old or younger. This district has the highest incidence of shooting victims in the city.
42% of the residents in the 22nd District live at or below the federal poverty line – the highest rate of concentrated poverty in the city – and 38% of the youth (16-24 year olds) in the district are unemployed.
Strawberry Mansion High School is the only public high school in the 22nd District. For the 2013-2014 school year, Strawberry Mansion’s on-time graduation rate was 36% – the lowest in the city.
The 22nd also has the greatest number of families living in Philadelphia Housing Authority residences of any police district and accounts for 35% of all homicides in PHA housing city-wide.
But, the 22nd District also has a long and rich history of community engagement and an excellent institution in Temple University, so we worked with these strong partners to earn the confidence and respect of residents and create lasting, positive change.
The holistic approach we’ve been testing in the 22nd is what we think it’s going to take to truly curtail youth violence now and in the years to come. It has meant addressing the contributing factors: education, lack of opportunity and unemployment. But it has also meant treating the entire community for the damage done by violence through trauma-informed care.
Let me give you a few examples of the work we’re doing in these areas with our partner organizations and the encouraging results we’re already seeing.
Education and After-School
As I discussed earlier, the best way to put a child on the path to success is to begin early with a solid educational foundation, but many of our city’s schools are not providing that for all of our students.
Part of the problem is that our schools are drastically underfunded. Our Administration and City Council have invested in education, more than $360 million in new annual funding over the last five years, and we will continue to make education a priority working with our new Governor Tom Wolf and our Philadelphia delegation in Harrisburg.
But that’s only part of the problem. Students face daily challenges like safely getting to and from school, a deficit of academic options and guidance while they are at school, and a lack of quality after-school programming between 3 and 6pm when they are most likely to get into trouble.
In the 22nd District, the Collaborative has launched programs specifically designed to address the needs of students in these schools.
Working with the United States Attorney’s Office, the Collaborative established a football program for the first time in 40 years at Strawberry Mansion High School – ensuring the players had uniforms, physical evaluations from a physician (a Collaborative partner), and even a tailgate party featuring a community resource fair for the team’s first homecoming game.
The City received a $200,000 grant through the U.S. Department of Justice to expand programs called “Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports” (PBIS) in four schools in the 22nd District. PBIS provides curriculum for teachers to talk about violence and conflict resolution with students in conjunction with academics.
The Genuardi Family Foundation recently invested $25,000 in the East Park Revitalization Alliance to support its work: providing after school and summer programming at the City’s Mander Recreational Center, teaching gardening and horticulture at the Green Resource Center, and instruction at the Culinary School in Strawberry Mansion High School.
The donation from the Genuardi Family Foundation will help immensely the East Park Revitalization Alliance, a small grassroots organization, with its immediate administrative costs and provide the opportunity to secure more public and private funding.
These investments are relatively small, targeted efforts that can and will make a tremendous difference. I strongly believe that education is the safety net through which we can increase opportunities for children to make the right choices; education is the greatest economic investment we can make.
Jobs and Opportunity
The Youth Violence Prevention Collaborative focuses on youth ages 14-24 years old, and we recognize that there is a great difference between a teenager in search of a summer or part-time job, and a young adult, perhaps coming out of the corrections system with little or no work experience and limited education.
As such, the Collaborative has prioritized helping those young adults get into, and stay in, the labor force. As I mentioned earlier, the unemployment rate for youth in the 22nd is nearly 40%.
Through the Collaborative and other City agencies, we have launched numerous programs to address the gap between a young person’s current skills and the prerequisites necessary for entry into the workforce.
In 2014, the City invested more $7 million dollars to create summer job experiences for youth across Philadelphia – the largest amount the City has ever invested in recent history. After our meeting with local funders this time last year, the Collaborative raised an additional $86,000 in private funding for summer jobs from the Patricia Kind Family Foundation and the Samuel S. Fels Fund (on top of what funders like Lincoln Financial Foundation were already investing). Those additional funds went directly toward placing 904 youth from the neighborhoods in 22nd District in summer jobs.
Also last year, the City was awarded a $750,000 Second Chance Act grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, which the City will match, to provide a range of supportive services including housing and employment for citizens returning from the Philadelphia Prison System to areas in and around the 22nd Police District.
Additionally, The City of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, and the Greenlight Fund are expanding our capacity to provide transitional jobs to older at-risk youth, ages 18-24, particularly those coming out of incarceration or detention.
Through a one-year investment of almost $1 million, the City will be funding a program operated by the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) in Philadelphia.
CEO will provide 150 slots of temporary, paid transitional work experience in the City’s Parks & Recreation Department. CEO staff will provide support for placement and retention in the labor force for young people, who are all returning to the neighborhoods in the 22nd Police District.
Our Administration also instituted three major policy changes in the past year which will also improve the life opportunities and life outcomes of Philadelphians – an increase in the living wage to $12/hour for city contractors and subcontractors; decriminalization of marijuana; and I was proud to sign paid sick leave legislation last month – all initiated by City Council and ultimately supported by our Administration.
Trauma Informed Care
The final contributing factor to violence among youth which we have sought to address is the lack of trauma-informed care.
Very young children exposed to trauma early in life often act out in ways early childhood providers are not equipped to handle, which may result in a child making bad choices and a lifetime of struggle.
Among victims of violence seen by Healing Hurt People, a program run in part by a Stoneleigh Fellow at Hahnemann Hospital, 56% reported that they had experienced 3 or more hardships during childhood.
The Health Federation of Philadelphia and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey recently received an award from The William Penn Foundation to provide foundational training on trauma to early childhood educators and parents in the 22nd District. The award, $473,000 over two years, will instruct 600 parents and 350 early childhood educators who serve 1,600 children.
The City, in partnership with the Temple University Medical School, received $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to implement Ceasefire in the 22nd District, a program which stops the spread of violence in communities by using methods and strategies associated with disease control. Ceasefire is now partnering with Healing Hurt People to provide hospital-based, trauma-informed interventions for patients at Temple University Hospital.
Philadelphia’s Youth Violence Prevention Collaborative is developing a new way of addressing and responding to youth violence.
There’s a lot more to this work, and I’ve laid out much of our work and told you about some of our incredible partners and stakeholders.
It is no longer just about policing, arrests and prison – it is about prevention in the early stages of a young person’s life, intervention when they become at-risk to make bad choices, and – when they reach that fork in the road – ensuring that every single child has the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty, crime and violence.
We have taken a targeted, place-based approach to focus on neighborhoods with the greatest needs. Going forward, part of the Collaborative’s mission is to develop a long-term, city-wide strategy that will be woven into the fabric of our government – every department and agency has a role to play in this work.
As Mayor, I didn’t invent picking up the trash or plowing snow – those operations happened before me an after me because that’s just what government does. Citizens pay tax dollars and expect to receive services. Since the crisis of violence is a true public health epidemic, there is no reason why we cannot make permanent our public service response to violence, especially youth violence, in the same way.
But you must ensure that this work continues inside and outside of government as well. As institutional leaders with broad influence across our city, you have the ability to inform and shape public policy.
I will go, but the work, the effort, the impact must continue. And whoever comes next as mayor must understand how critically important, how vital this work is and continue it.
So, I am asking you, the members of the Youth Violence Prevention Collaborative and those of you with us today who are not yet partners, to demonstrate your belief in the Collaborative’s work through your actions and resources. I’m asking you to make a commitment to the lives and life outcomes of young people in Philadelphia.
Everyone can do something: you can volunteer their time or services, you can align the mission of their organization with the goal of ending youth violence, or you can fund what others are doing through grant-making and investments.
Let me be clear, this is not like much of the other work you are doing. This is not a a 3-year grant opportunity.
It means making a 10 year commitment or more. Quite frankly, I need you – we need you – to invest in a generation of change. That’s what we need, that’s what our children need to live to 20 and beyond. Many children out there on our street don’t even believe that they will live to 20. If you’re only interested in the short-term, this work isn’t for you. I’m ask you to get involved now. We’re at a critical stage in this work, and what we’re doing is working.
It’s true in city planning, and it’s true in violence prevention and youth safety – as Daniel Burnham said, “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big.”
This is the time, this is the critical point of moving boldly, aggressively, proudly forward – or the real possibility exists that we could gradually, slowly, painfully, one death at a time slide backward and watch our children die.
I refuse to let that happen.
Make this work your work, make this work the city’s work, make this work your foundation’s work, make this work our collective work…
to save lives, to build futures, to set our city free from violence, free from bloodshed, free from trauma, free from oppression, free from fear, free to walk down the street, free to play outside, free to go to the supermarket…
free to know what our founding Founding Fathers really meant 239 years ago when they said, “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Let that be the promise of being a citizen of Philadelphia – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
It will be in your hands now, to take up this great challenge of our city and nation – to continue this work, commit to this work, contribute to this work with the urgency of now.
We have become a great city and we have begun the process of addressing the issues that are holding us back. It cannot end here. There are thousands of youth, especially young, black men, that need your help. Young lives are in your hands.
Thank you for the work that you do and thank you for being here today. God bless you all.”
Watch the speech here.
View the Strategic Report here.