Mar 1, 2022 - News

Temple University study links Philly gun violence to drug markets

Illustration of a spilled bag of powdered drugs, with a silhouette of a gun in the negative space.
Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Philly neighborhoods that saw gun violence surge during the pandemic also had something else in common: high drug market activity.

  • That's according to a new Temple University study released last week that used publicly available data of 8,122 shootings in the city between Jan. 1, 2017 and June 30, 2021.

What they found: Researchers suggest that factors that traditionally put neighborhoods at a greater risk of gun violence, like higher levels of poverty and unemployment, didn't appear to be driving violence during the pandemic.

  • "It was only the neighborhoods that had more drug activity that got increasingly worse in terms of shootings," Nicole Johnson, a Temple doctoral candidate who co-authored the study, told Axios.

The big picture: Gun violence spiked during the pandemic in Philadelphia and across the U.S.

Meanwhile, the city has been dealing with an opioid crisis for years, especially in the Kensington neighborhood.

Top takeaways from the report include:

  • The proportion of renters living in a community didn't have any bearing on neighborhood changes in gun violence during the pandemic.
  • Communities with more police activity, like traffic stops, had higher rates of gun violence after the onset of COVID.
  • Nearly half of the highly disadvantaged neighborhoods studied were estimated to have below-average increases in shooting rates after the pandemic began.

Yes, but: Researchers noted that the study has limitations, including that it didn't control for the 2020 protests following the police killing of George Floyd.

  • "There could be a whole host of other explanations that could be driving the rapid increase [in gun violence] that we've seen," Johnson said.
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