Apr 12, 2024 - News

Philadelphia mayor lays out her public safety plan

Photo illustration of Cherelle Parker with lines radiating from her.

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images.

Mayor Cherelle Parker unveiled a new public safety strategy Thursday to mark her 100th day in office.

Why it matters: Improving public safety and ending the open-air drug markets in Kensington are among the mayor's top priorities.

Driving the news: A 53-page report lays out enforcement strategies, tech upgrades, and program changes for the police department.

  • Plus: The blueprint for shuttering Kensington's drug markets includes offering services and housing — and applying heavy-handed enforcement tactics.

The big picture: The much-anticipated policing plan was part of the mayor's 100-day update detailing her core policies, which include increasing affordable housing and improving the city's cleanliness.

  • Parker and her leadership team revealed the details to elected officials, police and community members inside Russell Conwell Middle School's auditorium in Kensington.

What they're saying: Parker intends to overhaul how the city delivers services.

  • "Change is difficult and whenever you're trying to change culture — culture's difficult," she said.
  • "You can't have healthy communities without having safe communities," managing director Adam Thiel said.

Highlights include:

  • Tech upgrades: The police department wants to install sensors on handguns to activate officers' body-worn cameras when fired and expand license plate reader systems.
  • Bolster ranks: Improving the department's onboarding process to attract and hire officers amid a staffing shortage.
  • Reworking programs: The police department will redesign Group Violence Intervention, a strategy focused on high-risk groups to reduce gun violence and explore expanding it to include juveniles.

Plus: Police will add more walking beats in communities and business corridors, and explore redrawing its 21 districts, which hasn't been done since the 1970s.

Zoom in: Parker's five-phase plan for Kensington, the epicenter of the opioid epidemic, gives people living on the streets a "final opportunity" to access shelter and recovery services before the city begins "focused and intense" policing.

  • The crackdown will include warrant sweeps and a multi-day arrest operation, per the report.
  • The city and department will secure the area, using barricades to block off sidewalks if needed, to restore and sustain public spaces and businesses.

Meanwhile, Parker has proposed creating city-funded triage and wellness facilities across the city as part of her effort to shut down the open-air drug markets.

At-large Councilmember Jim Harrity, who lives in Kensington, tells Axios the neighborhood has already seen improvements.

  • "The dealers know a change is coming and they are scared," he said. "Neighbors have hope."
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