Mar 29, 2022 - News

Philadelphia launches new violence prevention hotline

Illustration of a no-sign made out of an old phone cord and receiver.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Philadelphia just launched a new hotline that aims to streamline access to violence prevention services and resources.

Why it matters: The city is grappling with a gun violence crisis that disproportionately affects young Black men.

  • A total of 120 murders have been recorded as of Monday, up 3% compared to the same time last year, according to the police department's online database.
  • Killings reached 561 in 2021 — the highest total ever recorded in the city.

Details: The 211 hotline is staffed with a half dozen "resource navigators," who can route people to existing programs, nonprofits and resources in real time, 24 hours a day via phone call, text or email, city officials announced Monday.

Between the lines: Resource navigators will be Philadelphians who are trained in trauma-informed care, said Erica Atwood, senior director for the city’s Office of Policy and Strategic Initiatives for Criminal Justice and Public Safety.

  • The hotline can help people with a range of issues, including conflict resolution, peer counseling, job programs, behavioral health support and after-school programming.

What they're saying: The hotline will allow people seeking help to avoid interacting with police, Mayor Jim Kenney said during a news conference this week.

  • It could also cut down on non-emergency calls to 911, too, he added.
  • "The only thing not getting better at the moment is our gun violence, and we need to get our arms around that. And with a full complement of everyone working together in every department, I am hopeful and confident we can get these numbers down," the mayor said.

Zoom in: The hotline could particularly help at-risk youth, who are more likely to seek out help via their phones, said Eugene Thomas, head of the anti-violence nonprofit Powercircle Youth, at the news conference.

  • The hotline also could reduce retaliation shootings, he said.
  • "When you are going through something and you are seeking help, help seems like miles away," he said. "This is definitely a step forward on evolving."

What's ahead: The program will expand to 11 resource managers and include multiple languages, such as Spanish.

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