Gun violence has Philly searching for answers

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said her department is beefing up patrols ahead of Memorial Day.
PHOTO: Metro File

A man was fatally shot Monday evening inside the food court at Philadelphia Mills mall.

Later in the night, a 55-year-old man was gunned down on a North Philadelphia street. Early Tuesday morning, a woman was critically injured after being shot in the face in East Germantown.

Philadelphia’s gun violence epidemic has continued unabated in 2021, and, as the weather warms, city leaders and residents are increasingly worried about the summer months, when there are typically more shootings.

Patterns emerged last year, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw told City Council members during a hearing Tuesday. Gunfire was often the result of social media beefs, and domestic violence was behind a larger share of homicides.

Open-air drug markets in Kensington have fueled violence across the city, Outlaw said, and the Philadelphia Police Department last month established a special patrol district with 38 officers in the neighborhood.

Outlaw said the PPD has also ramped up narcotics investigations in the neighborhood. Since January, officers have made 531 arrests, confiscated 25 guns and recovered more than $500,000 worth of drugs, according to the department.

Police took nearly 5,000 illegal guns off the street last year, a record number, and are on track to recover more than 6,100 in 2021, Outlaw said. So far, they have brought in 1,478.

However, conviction rates for people charged with the illegal possession of a firearm are low.

Early data this year shows that only 31% of those cases have resulted in a conviction, with 64% being withdrawn or dismissed, according to the PPD. Last year, more than half led to convictions and only 38% of the cases were dropped.

“It’s multi-faceted, but I do believe the criminal justice system needs to work better in order to keep people safe,” Mayor Jim Kenney told reporters Tuesday.

Kenney has often cited the proliferation of guns and lax firearm laws for the city’s skyrocketing homicide rate.

A total of 119 people have been killed in Philadelphia this year, up 28% from this point in 2020, and the victims have been more likely to be teenagers and children.

There have been 15 people under the age of 18 murdered this year, compared to four at this time last year. Nearly 50 juveniles have been wounded in shootings.

On Friday, an 11-year-old boy was fatally shot and a 14-year-old boy was injured by gunfire in Oxford Circle.

Police have made arrests in about half of the homicides this year, up from 42% in 2020. In non-fatal shootings, the percentage of cases resulting in an arrest, known as the clearance rate, was 13% last year and 18% so far in 2021.

Deputy Police Commissioner Benjamin Naish, during the virtual Council hearing, said an obstacle is that a significant number of victims of non-fatal shootings don’t cooperate with police.

“The people that are involved too often are people that have other associations with some other criminal activity,” he said.

If the person who was shot isn’t talking to investigations, witnesses are unlikely to come forward, Naish added.

A 35-year-old man showed up to Einstein Medical Center just after 10:45 a.m. Tuesday with a gunshot wound to his right arm, authorities said. He was “very uncooperative” with investigators, who weren’t able to determine where the shooting occurred, police said.

City Council “needs to put more dollars into crime prevention activities, especially at the grassroots level,” Councilman Derek Green said. Kenney is set to offer his proposed budget April 15.

District Attorney Larry Krasner said 21-year-old Dominic Billa, a stepson of a detective in his office, was the person shot multiple times in the chest at around 5 p.m. Monday at Philadelphia Mills in the Far Northeast.

The mall, formerly known as Franklin Mills, was locked down for a time, but no one has been arrested.

Earlier, at around 2:30 p.m., a 20-year-old man was shot in the face and back on the 1900 block of Granite Street in Frankford, authorities said. There was no word on his condition.

Police said a 55-year-old man died after being shot multiple times throughout his body at around 8 p.m. Monday on the 1900 block of Page Street in North Philadelphia.

At the time of the shooting, he was reportedly part of a film crew working on a documentary about gun violence.

And a woman whose age was not released was in critical condition after being shot once in the head at around 6 a.m. Tuesday on the 5800 block of Morton Street in East Germantown, police said.