In an effort to combat gun violence, Philadelphia has approved one of its largest budget increases in recent years, allotting nearly a billion dollars to the city’s police department for 2023.
The Philadelphia Police Department will receive an increase of nearly $30 million under the new $5.8 billion city budget approved by the City Council in late June, bringing the total police allotment to $800 million.
The budget, proposed initially by Mayor Jim Kenney, aims to cover contractually obligated pay raises for officers. What began as a $23.7 million budget grew into nearly $30 million after additional expenses were added for recruitment, crime lab improvements and anti-violence programs.
The new budget puts Philadelphia police at the top when it comes to city spending. It is worth noting that two years ago the City Council froze police funding following the killing of George Floyd.
Broken down, Philadelphia police will receive $21.3 million for personal costs and salaries as per the agreed contract with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 union.
A total of $3 million will go to upgrading police cellphones and laptops with applications used in investigations, along with a further $5 million increase to the city’s forensic lab, which is in need of modernization.
To boost recruitment and fill staff shortages, police have negotiated for an additional $250,000.
The rest of the budget will go toward a broad anti-violence plan pushed by the City Council last year, with $4 million going toward security camera installation and addressing quality-of-life issues, such as removing abandoned vehicles and cleaning up short dumping sites.
Citywide violence in the form of shootings remains an urgent issue debated by officials.
According to the Philadelphia P.D., there have been around 1,100 shooting victims in the city this year. Around a fifth of shooting victims died. The grim trend comes after an especially deadly year in 2021, which recorded a high of 562 homicides, with the majority due to gunfire.
Gun violence activists have put pressure on the City Council to act.
As part of the anti-violence plan, funds will go toward several police and community partnerships aimed at combating violence, including the gun-violence initiative Group Violence Intervention Program, police-assisted diversion programs aimed at helping low-level criminals avoid prosecution and obtain support services, as well as the creation of a gun homicide review to analyze the causes of shootings, trends and possible interventions.
Funding will also come in the form of grants to grassroots organizations and social programs, such as youth havens. Among these plans is a potential jobs initiative for those who are considered at-risk for perpetrating violence.
For example, $12 million will be allocated to the Anti-Violence Community Expansion Grant program, which combats gun violence by funding an array of nonprofit groups.
Emily DeCarlo, youth violence outreach director with the nonprofit Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia, spoke to the importance of funding community-level organizations to prevent gun violence.
“Prevention is in fact including things like youth programming, including things like schools, including things like parks and rec and programming for youth in the out-of-school time hours,” she said. “We need to find the right balance for that.”
The Department of Parks and Recreation will also receive $2.5 million to allow for more youth programs at recreation centers around the city.
“If the space is usable, then other nonprofits in the city could also use it to offer programming, and then I think the kids will come,” DeCarlo added. “They’re around. They’re on the basketball courts, they’re on the playgrounds. It’s just about opening the doors and saying come in and talk to us.”
Investments are also going toward those experiencing trauma related to violence. The Defender Association of Philadelphia, for example, is set to receive funding under the new budget after a successful public campaign earlier this year.
The budget will take effect on July 1 at the beginning of the fiscal year.