Oct 21, 2022 - News

Philadelphia leaders embark on gun violence listening tour in Trenton

Philadelphia Council President Darrell Clarke on a gun-violence listening tour in Trenton, New Jersey.

Philadelphia Council President Darrell Clarke on a gun violence listening tour in Trenton, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of The Trentonian

Desperate to address a surging epidemic of gun violence, Philadelphia council members traveled this week to one of the most dangerous small cities in America in search of answers.

Driving the news: Council President Darrell Clarke and five other council members visited Trenton, New Jersey, on Wednesday as part of a listening tour aimed at finding the best strategies to curb violence in Philadelphia.

  • There aren't immediate plans for where the tour will head next. Clarke's spokesperson Joe Grace told Axios they're absorbing what they learned in Trenton before figuring out "next steps."

Between the lines: The visit came as Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner is under fire from state lawmakers looking to impeach him for the way he's handled gun crime in the city — a hot issue in the U.S. Senate race.

  • Mayor Jim Kenney didn't join the listening tour, and Clarke alluded Wednesday to past fissures in how local leaders have attempted to tackle gun violence in the city, which this year is on pace to match 2021's homicide record.

The intrigue: New Jersey's capital is a curious selection for Philly officials considering it's dealt with a record-setting 40 homicides in 2020 and 2021, leading to the dismissal of Trenton's police director last year.

  • Trenton, with a population of roughly 91,000, actually had a worse per-capita murder rate in 2020 and 2021 compared to Philadelphia, which has more than 1.5 million residents, according to the latest census.
  • Trenton's murder rate was 43.9 per 100,000 in 2021, compared with Philly's 35.6 per 100,000.

What they're saying: Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora told Axios that Clarke's office reached out after the city's three-month stretch where a single homicide didn't occur this summer —a time when Trenton, like most cities, has "historically seen" spikes in violent crime.

  • "We're not holding ourselves out to be the end all, be all. But I think it's important that communities compare notes," Gusciora said.

Grace told Axios: "Trenton is clearly doing something right to not have a homicide in 90 days in the heat of the summer."

Yes, but: The Kenney administration cautioned about any big takeaways from the listening tour, telling Axios that Trenton and Philadelphia have "very different dynamics."

  • New Jersey has some of the country's toughest gun restrictions while Pennsylvania’s preemption law has tied Kenney's hands from banning guns from city recreation facilities.
  • "It is outrageous that we can ban smoking at our facilities but not guns," spokesperson Kevin Lessard said.
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