Governor Tom Wolf visits Delaware County to talk about gun violence prevention
CHESTER – Governor Tom Wolf visited the grounds of the Chester Panthers Foundation in Memorial Park on Friday after announcing that it would be one of three Delaware County entities to receive part of $ 15.7 million in public funds for fight against armed violence.
The Chester Panthers Foundation was one of the Delaware County grantees to receive funding from the Wolf’s $ 15.7 million Violence Intervention and Prevention Grants program, which is administered by the Commission of Pennsylvania on Crime and Delinquency.
“We’re not doing enough with the community organizations that are out there and actually know what’s going on,” Wolf said. “And, the Panthers are one of those organizations and I’m proud that we’ve been able to invest in them and a host of others across the Commonwealth… Forty organizations across the state have received this money, organizations across the state. community level who really know what’s going on, who are on the front lines of the communities, able to do something about this gun violence.
He said there was no magic wand to end gun violence and that it was essential to invest in community organizations, as well as to invest in schools, housing, food, good jobs and a fair society.
In Pennsylvania, 78.3% of homicides in 2020 were committed with a firearm, the governor said. From 2019 to 2020, he added, the number of gun homicides in Pennsylvania increased by 48%.
“This is an unacceptable loss of life, just unacceptable,” said Wolf. “Gun violence… is associated with systemic inequality. Gun violence affects communities of color.
He referred to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying that black Pennsylvanians are three times more likely than white Pennsylvanians to die from gun violence.
“Gun violence is tearing our communities apart,” he said. “And every year gun violence costs Pennsylvania a part of our future. It costs us our precious and irreplaceable lives – loved ones, friends, neighbors. And, economically, it costs the Pennsylvanians, our taxpayers, $ 567 million a year.
The first round of grants to the program was announced this week, which also saw the governor veto state Senate Bill 565, which would allow anyone to carry a concealed weapon without a background check or permit.
Chester has seen a 45% drop in homicides from 2020 to 2021, with 18 homicides recorded this year to date. This is due to measures implemented by the city police and Chester’s safe neighborhoods partnership with Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, Chester Police Chief Steven Gretsky said.
Many of the city’s homicides are gun related and part of the problem are “ghost guns” or untraceable guns and these guns fall into the hands of miners, Gretsky added.
The chief said he supported the governor who vetoed SB 565 as the action helps keep Chester and surrounding municipalities safe.
Haverford Police Chief John Viola, representing the Delaware County Association of Police Chiefs, agreed.
“We certainly appreciate that the governor has vetoed this bill,” Viola said. “There isn’t a day when we don’t all get up in the morning or see late at night that more gun violence in the state, in the city and in our local communities. It’s out of control. Either way, the fact that we can keep guns off the streets… is so important. “
Statewide, 40 projects received this initial program funding out of 300 that applied. Another cycle should be funded in early 2022.
Here at Delco, $ 50,000 is distributed to the Chester Panthers Community Foundation so that the organization can expand its sports activities and youth programming to include lectures, listening sessions and mentoring interventions to reduce guns. and other criminal activities.
Charles Thompson, president / director of the Chester Panthers, said the 25-year-old organization serves 200 young people between the ages of 4 and 14 with football, flag football and cheering programs.
“The grant means a lot,” he said, “because we’re going to expand our services to young people to help the community… One sport we’re going to expand into is wrestling and then we want to do more interventions as well. against gun violence: initiatives and mentoring.
Another $ 25,000 is earmarked for the Chester Biddy Basketball Association to provide social and emotional firearm prevention workshops to participating youth.
And, in Upper Darby, the township is expected to receive $ 308,122 to establish a new community policing center to meet the needs of residents on the west side of the township, to give young people a place to go for homework help with school activities. group to referrals to family resources and life skills courses.
“Understanding the immediate needs of the Upper Darby Township community is imperative for the development of equitable programs and the creation of safe and accessible resources for our youth and families,” said State Representative Gina H. Curry, Upper Darby’s D-164. , noted. “This collaborative effort to create, develop and provide safe, recreational and educational opportunities is essential for the prevention of violence and the overall success of our community. “
The program will build on the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative and provide funds for space rental, one full-time employee, two outreach workers, activity supplies, computers and school bus rentals. . Trained outreach workers will collect referrals from the school district and police department to identify youth who might benefit from this new program, and outreach workers will talk to parents about their children’s involvement.
“This grant provides the funds necessary to establish a valuable and safe space, as well as vital programs for children and youth in our district,” said State Representative Mike Zabel, D-163 of Upper Darby. “The funds from this project will create a place where young people can go to receive homework help, interact with their peers, participate in activities and take classes.
In 2019, the governor signed an executive order creating the Bureau of Gun Violence Prevention and a Special Council on Gun Violence within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to study gun violence and make recommendations on the issue of gun violence. how the state could reduce it.
One of the council’s recommendations was to prioritize funding to support community-led efforts while addressing resource disparities. The VIP grants were intended to help in this effort.
One of the members of the Special Council is State Representative Brian Kirkland, D-159 of Chester, and he explained how they traveled all over Pennsylvania and listened to the ideas and frustrations of communities affected by the armed violence.
“The job is certainly not done,” he said. “I hope this will be something that happens again.”