New legislation will support victims of violence

PHOTO: JARED PIPER

As gun violence and crime continue to plague the City of Philadelphia, local officials and advocates are stepping up to find a solution.

Their latest efforts were announced this afternoon during a press conference at City Hall when Councilman Kenyatta Johnson introduced legislation to create the Office of the Victim Advocate in Philadelphia.

“First and foremost, it will give victims of violence and survivors of crime an opportunity to have a voice and resources,” said Johnson. “Most importantly, they’ll have a seat at the table when it comes to victim advocacy here in Philadelphia.”

The proposed office would serve as a core center for anyone affected by violence throughout Philadelphia. Johnson said its purpose is to provide a chance to work in partnership, streamline policy and make sure victims have a voice.

According to Philadelphia Police Department statistics, there have been 65 homicide victims as of Tuesday. In 2019, there were 355 homicides and more than 1,400 non-fatal shootings in Philadelphia.

Many victims and advocates attended today’s event to show their support, including Dr. Dorothy Johnson-Speight, founder and National Executive Director of Mothers In Charge; Aleida Garcia, co-founder of National Homicide Justice Alliance; and Chantay Love, program director of Every Murder is Real Healing Center.

The proposal of the victim advocate office came to fruition thanks to Philadelphia residents who voiced their concerns at various public meetings hosted by City Council’s Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention.

“The advocates have told me that the fragmented nature of victim services leads to a lack of consistency and timing of outreach and services provided,” Johnson said in a statement. “The new Office of the Victim Advocate is long overdue in Philadelphia.”

The Office of the Victim Advocate will be introduced to City Council. If approved, a yes or no question will appear on voting ballots in the November election. If passed, Johnson said he expects the office to open in 2021.

“We want to look at policy, legislation and laws that impact victims, co-victims and survivors of gun violence,” said Johnson. “We want to make sure we are all on the same page. We are looking at a partnership approach. We want to be a support system for them.”

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