Purple Queen on the scene, with a double-dose of Her Majesty’s beneficent broadcasting.
Hello, beautifuls, and welcome to my royal violet vibe. This month, I call on Krasner — twice — to detail the DA’s support for victims and witnesses of gun violence. Then we stop by Philadelphia’s first esports room, where older youth from all neighborhoods can now game till their hearts content.
OCTOBER 25, 2021:
The West/ Southwest Response to Gun Violence (WSW) launched the city’s first neighborhood collaborative to address the roots of gun violence and provide aftercare for victims and families.
SAJ PURPLE BLACKWELL: We joined District Attorney Larry Krasner as he announced new neighborhood collaborations to provide victims services and help do something to stop gun violence in the city. Can you brief us, sir?
LARRY KRASNER: The whole idea of collaborating is to take nonprofit organizations who’ve been providing victim services for many years, and to link those up with credible messengers in the community who are also linked to academics, who can assess what’s working. Of course the most important link is community, but the goal here is a 24/7 effort to reduce the gun violence, to address the trauma, and to make sure that we have fewer victims in the future than we have right now.
SPB: Let’s talk about the Bailey Agreement — the PPD’s been monitored for civil rights violations in their Stop and Frisk policies, stemming from the ACLU’s class action lawsuit and numerous complaints and criticisms. Now that the data’s coming in, how do you see it affecting the PPD’s rules and procedures?
KRASNER: I don’t want to speak for the police commissioner, but I can tell you I see a few interesting developments. First, Bailey has done a pretty good job of reducing the level of illegal stop and frisk – for pedestrians. What has gone up along with that — which is not good news – is that we had a huge increase in the number of cars being stopped for pretty minor violations. To some people, this looks like illegal Stop and Frisk was just replaced with Driving While Black, as they call it, or illegal vehicle stops.
The answer to that has been to pass Councilmember Isaiah Thomas’s Driving Equality bills, which City Council did October 14th. Now for certain minor violations that had been used to pull people over without cause, those infractions will no longer result in a police stop, which can endanger policing can also civilians. Instead, offenders will get a citation in the mail, like a parking ticket. So that is a positive development. But obviously, the struggle goes on.
SPB: We appreciate everything Isaiah Thomas has done to bring this bill forth. But with the increase in homicides we’re experiencing, and the extraordinary amounts of gun violence in the city — is this the right time to not be stopping people?
KRASNER: It is the right time to not be stopping somebody for having fuzzy dice hanging from their mirror. It’s the right time not to stop people because their window tint is a little bit darker than it’s supposed to be. Because that has next to nothing to do with finding guns and arresting people.
The actual numbers on this show police will find a gun, one out of every 400 stops. And it’s not like when you find that one gun, it’s necessarily in the hands of Pablo Escobar. It might be under the seat of a working person who’s just afraid, because it’s scary. They should’ve gotten a permit to carry for the city, but maybe they live in the suburbs – you don’t need them out there in Montgomery, Bucks or Delaware county. In PA’s 66 counties, it’s not a crime, it’s just a crime here in the city.
So let’s not kid ourselves. The number of times these arrests actually get someone who is a danger to the community is very, very, very small. And the amount of damage you’ll do is much bigger.
Because we’ve just alienated 400 young people who might want to be police officers, who might have ideas about stopping shootings, who might have information for police about someone they know who was shot or who shot someone. When we alienate people, we lose them as witnesses. And without witnesses, it’s much harder to catch and prosecute criminals.
SPB: Why should the people vote for you in November?
KRASNER: Vote for me, because we did what we said we’re going to do, we kept our promises. We want more prevention, more public health, those are things that Philadelphia clearly wants. But there’s another reason you should vote, and that is to support the statewide judges from Philly who are on the ballot.
Because if we don’t have Philadelphia Democrats in statewide judge positions, then we’re going to have right wing Republican legislature in Pennsylvania. And they’ll be trying to find more and more ways to exclude your vote and silence your voice. So you need to get out there to vote for the judges. And vote for me, while you’re out there!
Bring people with you don’t usually vote, we’re going to need them in ’22 to make sure we have a second Democratic senator for Pennsylvania. Imagine how that could affect the national gridlock that we have going on in Washington? We’re going to need every vote so we have a Democratic governor to stand up against these people who are trying to end democracy. Please vote on November 2nd!
SEPTEMBER 25, 2021:
We caught some fanfare at the ribbon cutting for exciting new improvements at West Philly’s Christy Rec Center! Refurbished basketball courts and the city’s first “esports gaming room” – both targeted at older kids, in an effort to help keep them out of trouble. Is this enough?
Christy Rec lost four youth to gun violence this summer, what more can be done? We caught up with local leaders who spoke to the need for safe spaces and after school programming for area students.
COMMISSIONER KATHRYN OTT-LOVELL (Parks & Recreation)
Earlier this year, a 17 year old lost his life to gun violence right here on the basketball court of Christy Recreation Center. After this tragedy, the community truly rallied around this center, and the young people who come here.
The result has been an influx of new programming, more staff, and new opportunities for kids to learn skills, keep busy, and try new things. We’re offering basketball and outdoor sports programs. With these renovated courts and our new eSports room, we are taking steps to welcome young people and create a safe place for the neighborhood’s youth all over the city.
COUNCILMEMBER JAMIE GAUTHIER (District 3)
We know that one of the most powerful ways to combat gun violence is by investing in the communities that are most heavily impacted. And by creating safe ways for kids to have fun and enjoy one another’s company. The improvements here at Christy are an excellent example of the ways that police and community can come together to support our young people in neighborhoods impacted by gun violence.
Sadly, as you heard, this rec center and the surrounding neighborhood have been a hotspot for gun violence over the last year. And that’s why it’s so important that we’re all here today to reclaim this space as a safe and supportive resource for our kids. In addition to the upgrades we’re celebrating today, we’re performing an assessment to determine what else we can do, what else could be useful. I’m really looking forward to working with residents in the coming year to make those improvements a reality.
MAYOR JIM KENNEY
What I saw today, in addition to the new Esports Center – was a re-establishment of the relationship between the police and the community, with these two young, brave officers who came up with this idea during the summer, to interact with our kids in this neighborhood. To change the tone and change the conversation.
The police are here to protect them. And they need to know that, and respect the police in return. It’s a mutually-beneficial relationship. The police don’t have to be brutal. They can just be like these two young guys who are really putting their lives on the line, serving the community, at the same time gaining respect from these kids.
SPB: Do we still agree that we need to do more for them?
MAYOR KENNEY: We have a whole process going on now to renovate the entire rec center, including security cameras.
SPB: That’s a start but I think we can do better.
Esports aka “electronic sports” is organized competitive gaming — an enormously popular activity, and fantastic way to engage kids, and keep them safe off the streets. There are other benefits, too.
Esports increase cognitive acuity and coordination in children and teens; they also teach teamwork and communication skills. And if a kid’s really good, there’s millions of dollars in scholarship money up for grabs every year, at 175 colleges with varsity esports teams (at ten of them you can even major in esports!)
Christy Rec Center’s esports gaming room is the city’s “pilot program”: plans are already in the works to open more of them in the coming years. Christy’s space has six flat-screen TV’s, nine gaming consoles with controllers (four Xbox, four PlayStation, one Nintendo Switch), 24 gaming headsets, and 20 custom gaming chairs (plus two couches). Gamers can play individually, in groups and organize tournaments.
The esports room is open to all Philadelphia’s young people Tuesday thru Friday, from 4pm to 8pm.
728 South 55th Street, 19143 (map), 215-685-1997 / @ChristyRecreationCenter on Facebook
SEPTEMBER 26, 2021:
This day the city reached a grim and horrible milestone – 400 murders. That’s 400 lives cut short. 400 families who lose a loved one: a husband, a sister, a cousin, a son. What about all the many people left behind? We sat down with Philadelphia district attorney Larry Krasner to ask him what the City is doing to support victims, survivors and witnesses.
SAJ PURPLE BLACKWELL: Sir, the community is hurting, we’re crying out here. People want to know you care and empathize. Especially for these young lives we’ve lost. Would consider going to some funerals?
LARRY KRASNER: Absolutely. I have and I will.
SPB: I think more people need to know this! I bet a lot of people would be surprised to know how involved the DA’s office actually is, with helping victims and making sure they’re OK. Let’s talk about that.
KRASNER: Earlier this year, my office received $1.2 million to provide support for those left behind in the wake of homicide. In the first 45 days following a murder, families are provided grief counseling, funeral planning, and even some help with utility bills. We are now also providing some of those services to all gun violence victims, and seeking to extend these services through our CARES program (Crisis Assistance, Response and Engagement for Survivors).
Another thing that we do — that have always done — is we have our Victim/Witness Advocates, who work with families of people who have been killed or have been shot all the way through the trial process, till its conclusion.
The third thing that we do is, we relocate people. A lot of times, we’ll get an emergency call, it’s either coming from a witness or the family of the victim or it’s coming from a City Councilmember. Iit may be coming from somewhere in the police department, saying that it’s necessary to relocate people. It does not matter if it’s three o’clock in the morning on Sunday night, we are going to jump on it and do whatever we can within the rules and within the resources we have.
Requests for relocation are up about 50% over recent times. And this is one of the reasons that we’ve asked City Council to try to make an additional quarter million dollars available so that if we need, we don’t have to wait. We don’t have to hesitate and risk someone’s safety, we can make sure we’re protecting people as much as possible.
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