A Community Safety Plan to Restore the Village to Philadelphia

Dear Philadelphia:

I have fought for a safer, healthier and more resilient Philadelphia all my life. In 2010, I was called into a Philadelphia public high school that was long considered one of the most dangerous in the state. I saw the School District neglect escalating problems and only react and punish as children were being hurt, teachers and staff members assaulted, and parents and families fled the school and the city.

Alongside victim advocates and the U.S. Justice Department, I got to work – establishing accountability for harm, bringing in trained mediators to work with students, retraining teachers and school staff, and investing in academic and health supports for students. I helped turn around that school in less than two years, and learned then what I know now – safety is a whole city mission. 

As your Mayor, I will ensure every Philadelphian is safe and feels safe.  

I know how elusive that seems right now, as homicides and shootings disrupt daily life, and most painfully and urgently, we see the young ages of those most involved in and impacted by violence. We also know that when almost 80% of those hurt by shootings are Black, and when it is Black communities who overwhelmingly bear the trauma and cost of gun violence, safety is a matter of racial justice. Yet some candidates are using this moment to roll the clock backwards on civil rights. As Mayor, I will not fall back on or pursue discredited policies that have failed our city and damaged relationships between the community and police. The era of unfettered stop and frisk policing ended years ago, and I will not return to it. 

My plan to restore public safety is a modern approach to both solving and preventing crime, one that integrates accountability and restorative practices into all our agencies. On Day One I will issue a state of emergency on gun violence. No longer will the Mayor, Police Department, and District Attorney be working at cross purposes. My administration will coordinate among departments with a relentless focus on measurably reducing crime, with consistent implementation at all levels of law enforcement and across our entire city workforce. 

I will ensure our Police Department focuses on solving cases by making historic investments in forensics and modern technology, improving 911 response times, and redeploying officers onto community foot patrols. We will have a multi-agency task force to get illegal guns off the street. My plan emphasizes deterring crime by improving basic tools, from better forensics to better lighting in neighborhoods. Making Philadelphia safer requires implementing strategic, evidence-based solutions, providing accountability for those who commit crimes, and restoring those who have been harmed. 

Certain, swift, and fair are the hallmarks – certain accountability, swift adjudication, fair administration with respect for the law and civil and human rights. 

Our violence crisis is also a mental health crisis, with stress and interpersonal conflict too often escalating out of control. My plan will expand non-police crisis response units to address mental health, addiction, homelessness, and domestic concerns with trained specialists, while freeing up officers to focus on serious crime. As mayor, I will make sure that whenever there is an emergency, we get you the help you need.

Philadelphians need a public safety plan they can see and feel on their block, at their local business, as they head to school, at places of worship, and everywhere they live their daily lives in our city. When violence occurs, you deserve consistent, reliable support and communication that you can count on, and for your and your neighborhood’s concerns to be front and center. That’s why each police district will convene more regular public safety meetings and build concrete ways for communities to help improve and tailor law enforcement response. Through harnessing the perspectives of police captains, officers on the beat, service providers, city agencies, and community leaders, we will build a responsive community policing model. 

As Mayor, I will support neighbors who are building community and resilience in their neighborhoods. Studies clearly show that improving neighborhood conditions can reduce crime, and improve safety and well-being. A Gym Administration will lead an immediate campaign to clean and green communities – increasing trash pickups, remediating 50% of vacant lots, and towing 10,000 abandoned cars in my first one hundred days. And we will put every civic and public asset to work – opening our schools until 6 p.m. and getting libraries and recreation centers open on nights and weekends.

Nobody has a clearer plan to get youth and young adults out of the path of violence and to include parents and caregivers as part of the solution. As a Councilmember, I worked with leading anti-violence experts to publish a Youth Anti-Violence Agenda, and as Mayor I will enact it. I will create new programs for high-risk youth utilizing culturally adept and skilled community mediators to intervene in group conflicts and to work with families. I am focused on year-round youth employment, afterschool and summer programming, teen wellness and health programs, and parenting classes. When so many children are being hurt near schools, I will work with SEPTA and the School District to provide free transportation and guided safe passageways to and from school so no child has to fear getting their education. 

No candidate has worked harder to help make families and youth stronger and more resilient in the face of violence. As Mayor, I will provide the resources that can actually prevent crime, not just punish it. 

I firmly believe that to end cycles of violence, we must completely overhaul our treatment and care for survivors of violence so that we don’t perpetuate trauma on future generations. Our hospitals and higher education institutions will be called to action. Housing, wellness programs, family supports, and employment opportunities will be central to my victim support work. 

We must restore the village to our city. 

My plan to ensure public safety is the most thorough whole-city approach of any candidate. Central to it is a commitment to constantly assess whether what we are doing is actually working to increase safety and improve quality of life. I will continue to welcome and incorporate the feedback and perspective of all experts especially from those most impacted by violence. 

I have never sat on the sidelines when our city has been in need. Philadelphians need a leader who is tried, tested, and true in taking decisive action that keeps us all safe. It’s who I’ve always been, and it’s what I will do as your Mayor.

Yours in service,

Helen Gym

Philadelphians do not feel safe at home. Helen Gym’s plan takes immediate and urgent action and invests in meaningful systemic reforms to improve safety for generations of Philadelphians to come. That starts with a Day One declaration of emergency that brings all city agencies together to coordinate our collective resources in order to measurably reduce crime and reorient and build capacity within city departments. Philadelphia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated what is possible when a crisis is treated by the government as an emergency requiring extraordinary concerted effort, as well as the deliberate action that is needed to fix deep-seated racial disparities. 

With this emergency approach, Helen will ensure safety is treated as her administration’s foremost priority. She will convene and lead a whole of government strategy to implement her comprehensive safety plan that embeds federal and state authorities, as well as activates major institutions, experts, and community leaders. All efforts will proceed on two clear tracks: immediate interventions that are calibrated to provide the greatest possible impact and relief in a short time frame, and structural interventions that will prevent violence in the medium and long term, or address root causes. 

Helen Will Reform Police Staffing, Recruitment, and Deployment.

A Gym administration will reform and improve staffing within the Philadelphia Police Department to deploy officers according to highest priorities, retrain around community policing models, and ensure benefit programs are reserved for officers in need and not abused. Helen’s administration will work closely with regional, state, and federal partners to ensure that the Philadelphia Police Department is utilizing the most effective strategies to address and prevent crime, particularly when it comes to illegal guns. The Gym administration will: 

  • Spearhead a comprehensive staffing and deployment review of the Philadelphia Police Department, as well as a review of how the Department is using its resources, and initiate a reorganization of the staffing of police districts to dramatically improve response times, ensure strong leadership in Districts where it is most urgently needed, and improve localized approaches to crime prevention that reflect the unique needs of each of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods.
  • Deploy a greater proportion of police officers on foot and bike patrol, to ensure that officers are on the beat, forming relationships with community members, and are as responsive as possible to immediate concerns related to violence as they emerge and build trust with community members who are impacted by violence. 
  • Put more trained civilians to work in jobs traditionally held by uniformed officers, which will free officers from administrative tasks and put them back on patrol in neighborhoods requiring a ground-level police presence. Helen will task all key parties (including Philadelphia Law Department, Philadelphia Office of Finance, the Philadelphia Police Department) to work in alignment to implement the recent arbitration award allowing for this type of redeployment. Helen will ensure that every position that can make this transition does so as soon as is legally possible, and will further expand the civilianization of services such as abandoned car removal and traffic enforcement using the City’s new Public Safety Enforcement Officers. These efforts will free up officers who are currently spending too many working hours focused on non-safety issues.
  • Train and promote new detectives from existing ranks in order to reduce caseloads and improve clearance rates.
  • Invest in modern forensics labs to ensure efficient, timely, and accurate processing of evidence.
  • Ensure that the Heart and Lung program is reserved for seriously injured officers, and hold any abusers of this program accountable. In recent years Philadelphia has had as much as 11% (more than 600) of officers listed as injured and off duty, a rate that is dramatically higher than other cities.
Helen Will Overhaul 911 and Expand Mental Health Crisis Response.

Helen led efforts to establish the city’s first mobile crisis units to support community members in need of emergency mental health services so that police officers can focus on solving high-priority crimes, and people in crisis aren’t met with a gun and a badge when they actually need a medical provider. As Mayor, she will expand this program citywide, and will make sure that anyone who calls for emergency help knows they will get the assistance they need. A Gym administration will:

  • Expand and improve resources so that people experiencing a mental health crisis can get the immediate help they need. Helen will dramatically expand non-police mobile mental health crisis units, which deploys trained, licensed mental health clinician responders to select emergency situations, so they are available 24/7 citywide and calls for help are no longer turned away. She will ensure that police/clinician co-response teams are functioning effectively when needed to provide an immediate response that prioritizes health and safety, and is tailored to the situation at hand. She will deploy trained, trauma-informed responders that can immediately assess crises; deescalate; provide necessary care and resources; and design a plan for sustained behavioral health, substance abuse, houselessness, and other health-related issues. She will additionally expand access to free “mental health first aid” training for all residents.
  • When Helen is mayor, 911 calls will be answered immediately. She will make key investments to ensure that the City’s 911 dispatcher unit is fully and robustly staffed. All 911 dispatchers will receive thorough and recurring training, be given bonuses aimed at improving retention rates, and be provided with fair schedules and support for the significant vicarious trauma they are exposed to daily to ensure that they are not performing their jobs under exhaustion or excessive stress. 

The overwhelming majority of violent crime in the city never ends in an arrest. Our clearance rates the ratio of arrests to known offenses are at historic lows. Under Helen’s leadership, solving shootings and violent crime will be Philadelphia Police Department’s top priority, alongside rigorously evaluated strategies that are aimed at preventing and deterring these offenses. Additionally, better supporting victims of gun violence, their families, and the neighborhoods where shootings take place is critical to preventing future violent incidents. Research shows that shooting victims are a high risk group for becoming shooters themselves. 

Helen Will Address The Illegal Gun Trade.

To keep Philadelphians safe, we must get illegal guns off the streets of Philadelphia that injure and kill our neighbors and loved ones each and every day. A Gym administration will work with law enforcement agencies and other governing bodies to drastically reduce the illegal gun trade through:

  • Convening the Police Department and the District Attorney to review all charges on illegal gun possession to ensure a coordinated and effective strategy. 
  • Ensuring collaboration with state and federal agencies and pursue joint efforts to go after straw purchasing and other large-scale dealing. A Gym administration will seek additional resources to significantly expand investigative capacity, and partner with federal officials to ensure increased consequences for those responsible for flooding our streets with dangerous weapons.
  • Working with Governor Shapiro and Speaker McClinton to enact common sense gun reforms in Pennsylvania including background checks for all firearm sales and cracking down on ghost guns.
  • Spearheading a regional approach to tackling gun violence and crime, building relationships with nearby governments and municipalities to develop a shared approach to public safety beyond Philadelphia’s borders. 
Helen Will Overhaul Our Approach to Gun Violence.

Philadelphia needs a better and more coordinated strategy for gun violence intervention. The next Mayor must lead an evidence-based, thoughtful plan for getting support and resources to those who are close to committing gun violence before they do. Under a Gym administration, building and leading that plan will involve the following key steps:

  • Improve our City’s Group Violence Intervention (GVI) strategy, which seeks deterrence through engaging those connected to groups susceptible to involvement in gun violence, supporting them with services and counseling, and ensuring serious consequences for violent activity. 
  • Increase and refine newly-dedicated investigative efforts focused on non-fatal shootings, and continue high-level administrative convenings on shooting reviews while moving to initiate regular gun violence review meetings in each of Philadelphia’s 21 patrol districts to better ensure a localized, neighborhoods-based approach to understanding incidents and patterns of gun violence. These meetings will bring together police captains, officers on the beat, City agencies, service providers, and community leaders to identify hotspots and address causes of gun violence. 
  • Provide skilled “violence interrupters,” by reforming and overhauling this critical program. With a large proportion of shootings tied to interpersonal conflict, there is significant need for individuals capable of intervening and diffusing tensions before violence erupts. Helen will ensure the City finally adopts an evidence-based model for this work, using effective, community-based, trusted service providers with the capacity to develop staff who can serve as credible messengers. She will regularly evaluate service providers to ensure that their strategies are working and a worthwhile investment of taxpayer money. 
  • Develop and implement regular evaluations of all recipients of City antiviolence funding, to ensure that there are antiviolence returns on violence prevention efforts, and to ensure that small community-based organizations have the resources and support they need to provide programming and services, as well as adequately collect data.
  • Convene a task force including the Philadelphia Law Department, legislative bodies, and Philadelphia-area law firms to focus on affirmative litigation to advance gun control.
Helen Will Improve The City’s Response to Crimes that Harm Philadelphians.

Currently, our City is failing to provide survivors of violent, traumatic incidents – too many of them children, teens, and parents with the reliable communication, effective investigations, and respectful attention they deserve. If a shooting takes place under a Gym administration, the people impacted and the surrounding community will immediately receive consistent, reliable direct communications and support from the City and coordinated nonprofit partners including wrap-around services and an all-hands-on-deck approach to preventing the recurrence of violence. A Gym administration will additionally ensure that the Philadelphia Police Department has the resources, training, and technology to hold those who commit crimes in Philadelphia responsible. Helen will:

  • Improve communication with survivors and victim families by implementing a standard operating procedure that assures they know when and how frequently they can expect to hear from the detectives handling their case. Currently, impacted people may never hear from police unless there is an arrest in their case, and grieving families should never be left fearing their loved one’s murder is receiving less attention because of their neighborhood or race. 
  • Invest City funds, and lead the charge to secure state and federal funds, to upgrade and expand our City’s surveillance camera technology to improve our ability to gather crucial evidence.
  • Provide the Police Department with the ability to procure and issue telephonic warrants, which will make our response to crime more efficient and effective, safeguarding civil rights while ensuring that more crimes can be prosecuted without charges being thrown out on constitutional grounds. 
  • Invest in training more detectives to reduce caseloads, provide them needed case support and resources to more effectively and efficiently do their jobs, increase capacity to process evidence, and upgrade the City’s approach to forensics through implementing a state-of-the-art forensics lab to improve our crime solving capabilities. 
  • Invest in necessary technological upgrades to the Philadelphia Police Department’s information management system to better track crime, while protecting resident privacy, and further coordinate Group Violence Intervention with the Department’s databases to remove operational barriers and improve impact.
  • Fund and expand restorative justice initiatives that help victims of crime get community support, resolution, and the healing they need while providing accountability and the opportunity for growth and repair to those who have committed harm.
  • Significantly expand the Network of Neighbors program, which trains and coordinates community members and leaders to effectively respond to stress, trauma, loss, and violence within neighborhoods, so this critical resource is regularly and universally available.
Helen Will Support Victims.

A Gym administration will increase support for victims and survivors of violence, providing them with the resources, compensation, mental health support, conflict mediation, and attention that they deserve. This is both a key responsibility of government, including law enforcement, as well as a key strategy for violence prevention. Shooting victims are a high risk group for becoming shooters themselves. Too often, survivors of violence do not process the trauma they endure, which demonstrably fuels more violence. Mayor Gym will commit historic investments in evidence-based mental and behavioral healthcare to provide healing for those most impacted by violence, and to prevent the perpetuation of further harm. Helen will:

  • Improve and expand the City’s new 24-hour violence prevention hotline, by investing in and training critical staff so they can more effectively connect families impacted by gun violence to trauma counseling services, mental health supports, crisis intervention, and resources for covering related expenses including by facilitating immediate counseling or mediation when needed.
  • Overhaul access to relocation assistance for families and youth likely to be harmed by violence, increasing resources and removing barriers to this lifesaving service that is typically unavailable to those who need it, and ensuring Philadelphians can trust they will be protected if they serve as witnesses or share information with law enforcement.
  • Increase access to high quality mental healthcare by building the therapeutic workforce, training hundreds of additional practitioners on culturally-responsive trauma therapeutic services and establishing scholarship or fellowship incentives with local colleges and universities to increase the number of graduates entering this field.
  • Provide free crime scene clean-up services so that grieving families no longer have to bear this traumatic responsibility.
  • Help families who cannot afford funerals for their loved ones lost to gun violence by creating a fund to provide revolving, no-interest loans until state victim assistance reimbursements can be processed.
  • Expand hospital-based intervention programs, which have demonstrated significant success in breaking cycles of violence by connecting shooting victims at high risk of continued involvement with violence to comprehensive support.
  • Invest in broadening and deepening victim services in neighborhoods, and expand eligibility for compensation and support services to ensure all who are harmed by violence can receive needed support. 
  • Add additional Victim Assistance Officers to aid those impacted by homicides, and improve training with police officers, detectives and prosecutors on how to appropriately build relationships with and support victims of crime. 
  • Spearhead a case management approach to victims of violence, and improve coordination among overlapping entities in order to reduce stress and confusion for victims. Through Philadelphia’s network of victim services agencies, with the support of the Philadelphia Office of the Victim Advocate, the Gym administration will guarantee that a full range of City services — housing, education, healthcare, and jobs — are deployed in the wake of violent incidents. 
  • Communities in crisis need an immediate response from the City. Helen will develop a comprehensive shooting response protocol, deploying a robust and coordinated set of services and victim supports within 24 hours of a shooting or violent event. 
Helen Will Take On Domestic Violence.

Escalating family-based and intimate partner violence is a crisis, and requires an urgent and holistic response. Helen will overhaul the City’s handling of domestic violence with the goal of prevention and interruption, using a public health lens, and ensure all strategies are based in a clear understanding of the nature of this violence, who is involved, and where and how it is occuring. Additionally, Helen will:

  • Comprehensively review police protocols, and restart the Women’s Death Review analysis (expanding it to include those who are trans or non-binary).
  • Establish domestic violence response teams, including trauma-informed victim advocates, to offer immediate resources in response to incidents of abuse. 
  • Ensure young people have access to education about healthy relationships, and invest in community-based training and outreach.
  • Make major investments in the City of Philadelphia’s 24/7 Domestic Violence Hotline and its nonprofit service providers in order to better respond to violence in the home, one of the root causes of violence in communities. 
  • Increase supports for domestic violence victims particularly in the form of desperately-needed emergency and transitional housing and ensure inclusion for all gender and sexual identities, so that all those who are the victims of domestic violence can leave violent situations.

To meaningfully address our historically high waves of gun violence, we must invest in the futures of all our young people, especially those whose lives are in danger of being cut short on either side of a weapon. As a City Councilmember, Helen led the creation of an evidence-based Youth Anti-Violence Agenda that centers on protecting young people. As Mayor, she will implement that plan, and ensure that young people are given the power to help shape and evaluate the programs and policies that impact their lives. A Gym administration will work around the clock to provide Philadelphia’s young people with the resources, skills, and supports needed to enable them to pursue alternatives to violence. 

Helen Will Guarantee Youth Employment.

Helen believes that it is essential for youth to be connected to employment opportunities, particularly during the summer, to keep them busy and focused on viable and safe opportunities to earn money for themselves and their families. As mayor, Helen will guarantee a job to every single young person who wants one, and will:

  • Implement an annual Summer Safety Plan that ensures rigorous and well-funded paid work opportunities and programming for youth that also continue through the school year. Young people in the zip codes most impacted by gun violence will be prioritized for outreach and support, with a goal of a 50% increase in youth employment during her first summer while in office. She will also fix the administrative barriers in the WorkReady program that have resulted in thousands of young people being needlessly blocked from these opportunities.
  • Expand the PowerCorps program to give young people a supportive pathway to city employment, including partnership with CLIP and other Land Care programs to clear vacant lots that increase crime as well as to increase neighborhood greening as part of the City’s Tree Plan.
  • Build on the soon-to-launch READI (Rapid Employment and Development Initiative) program that focuses on those mostly likely to be involved with gun violence with evidence-based social and therapeutic supports, by piloting a youth model.
  • Structure Department of Commerce programs to partner with local businesses, institutions, and organizations and provide tax incentives and grants for hiring, training and mentoring youth, and ensuring that these businesses and organizations receive technical support around youth mentoring, youth development, and trauma-informed professional supervision.
  • Partner with the Building Trades and commit to a pilot class of 100 young people completing pre-apprentice and apprentice programs with a guaranteed track to employment through leveraging resources from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
  • Spearhead a career-connected learning model, infusing career-readiness into District schools. Lead a strong coordinated effort by the School District. City, and business community to ensure every child has access to a range of job opportunities that will allow them to meet new state graduation requirements, preventing a devastating collapse in graduation rates. 
Helen Will Expand Youth Programming.

Youth deserve safe havens in their homes and neighborhoods, as well as access to caring adults and opportunities for personal development — especially youth who are at higher risk of involvement with violence. A Gym administration will: 

  • Expand youth programming, ensuring recreation centers are open and staffed to provide programs for teenagers in impacted zip codes on nights and weekends prioritizing youth interests such as leadership development, sports, arts, and music, and providing support in conflict resolution and trauma-informed care and increase funding for high-impact youth-serving programs. 
  • Develop a case management approach and oversee coordination between the District Attorney, the courts, and the School District, including by expanding wraparound supports to young people being discharged from the juvenile justice system.
  • Work with state and local Departments of Human Services, the courts, and community organizations to develop alternatives to placement for young people who come into contact with the justice system, including expansion of the successful Healing Futures youth restorative justice program.
  • Invest in intensive programming that offers opportunities for at risk and violence-involved youth to build relationships with mentors and transition to apprenticeship programs. 
  • Involve parents as part of the solution, expanding successful programs that integrate parents and support them to redirect young people who have become system-involved.
Helen’s Administration Will Keep Children Safe from Morning to Night.

School zones must be places of safety and security for our young people and their families. Yet Philadelphians know far too well the violence and harm that happens within them on a daily basis. The next Mayor must have a fully developed and thorough plan to build safe routes to, from, and in schools so students feel safe in and around their buildings. Helen has released a comprehensive “schools-first agenda” to support children and families. Additionally, Helen will:

  • Guarantee safe routes to and from school, by investing in additional crossing guards and community safety monitors, to have all eyes on our young people who are not only targets of crime but are increasingly caught in it. She will improve those jobs to end persistent vacancies, creating opportunities for full time roles that also provide needed climate and truancy support in our schools. She will also mobilize businesses, anchor institutions, and neighborhood leaders to partner on this critical goal.
  • Provide every student free access to transportation, so that they are not forced to walk through unsafe corridors just because they live within a mile of their school. 
  • Ensure that “School Safety Zones” live up to their name by having law enforcement fully coordinate with both District and charter schools, and truly prioritize the safety of students and staff on transit, on key corridors, and in the areas surrounding our schools. She will additionally prioritize street safety interventions to reduce vehicle crashes that endanger young people and families.
  • Because just 25 schools enrolled over 50% of youth involved in gun violence, Helen will create and implement a specific plan for supporting students at those schools, as well as at the elementary and middle schools that feed into them. Her administration will also provide additional, intensive, trauma-responsive supports and resources for these schools. 
  • Work with the School District and Superintendent, as well as parents and community leaders, to develop a clear blueprint for engaging with school communities impacted by gun violence, informed by best practices.
  • Establish basic school-based guarantees, including school-wide mental health and wellness supports, trauma-informed counseling, healing opportunities, and dedicated calming spaces. 
  • Ensure that the School District provides ongoing specialized training and support for all school staff in effectively managing and responding to trauma, and additional mental health supports and bereavement leave for school staff members who are impacted as well.
  • Reduce caseloads for the Prevention and Intervention liaisons, and ensure that sufficient dedicated support is available for the highest-needs schools.
  • Implement conflict resolution training and programming in schools that are rooted in restorative models and not merely replicating justice system involvement, as well as programming that supports healthy relationship development and prevents intimate partner violence.
  • Ensure that every Philadelphia school has the resources necessary to offer art and music programs, and after-school activities.
  • Ensure alternative schools have supportive and effective models, and reevaluate contract rates to ensure that adequate resources are available to these highly-impacted school communities.
  • Comprehensively review and reform the truancy system to better pursue early intervention and integration with school-based services, to prevent families, and namely families of color, from becoming involved in the court system and ending the removal of children by DHS due to truancy.
  • Work with the School District to ensure that School Safety Officers have the training, support, accountability, and complementary staffing they need to protect our young people and school staff, to de-escalate intraschool conflicts within school buildings, and to implement restorative justice practices.

Research clearly shows that investing in neighborhoods experiencing disproportionate gun violence reduces that violence and increases safety and wellbeing. Helen’s administration will deliver much-needed services and physical improvements to communities across the city, particularly the 57 blocks where a disproportionate number of violent incidents occur. A Gym administration will fully fund safe havens like libraries and recreation centers in communities and station critical intervention services there. It will also address unacceptable neighborhood conditions that pose a threat to public safety and invest in the services that research has shown to significantly reduce violence: improving street lighting, towing abandoned cars, addressing hazardous building conditions, increasing trash removal, preventing illegal dumping, sealing vacant buildings, clearing alleys, and cleaning and greening vacant lots. 

Helen Will Create and Foster Safe Havens in Our Communities.

Philadelphians living in neighborhoods with disproportionate incidents of violence need the city to provide safe havens directly in their communities with connected services. A Gym administration will:

  • Make every school a community school: Open for breakfast and until at least 6 p.m., with before and after-school programs as well as summertime academic, arts and trade, wellness, and mentoring programs in every neighborhood.
  • Fully fund and staff our libraries and recreation centers to open on all nights and weekends, especially during the summer — no excuses.
  • Reopen closed pools, many of which are located within school buildings, as part of Helen’s 10-year school modernization plan. These pools are critical to providing year-round programming that enhances safety, teaches life-saving skills, and connects young people to employment — and are critical to ensuring outdoor pools can open in the summer to serve as safe gathering places.
  • Ensure that clinical social workers, housing counselors, and job counselors are stationed at libraries and recreation centers in the zip codes most impacted by gun violence to help youth and families with family case management, connections to therapeutic interventions, general emotional support, and access to resources.
  • Provide universal and ongoing training and technical support in strategies for gun violence interruption, conflict resolution, de-escalation and trauma-informed care approaches to all adults providing staffing and programming in recreation centers.
Helen Will Improve Neighborhood Quality of Life.

Helen will focus on improving major quality of life issues in neighborhoods most impacted by gun violence through: 

  • Convening all necessary City agencies to jumpstart an ambitious plan to clean and light up our streets, remediate and green vacant lots, subsidize home repair, improve trash collection, clean up and expand green spaces, and confront illegal dumping—all of which have been proven to reduce crime and improve health. Under Helen’s administration, city agencies will have a mandate to initiate anti-violence planning, and deliver anti-violence resources. Helen will work with city agencies to deliver the following guarantees:
  • Helen’s Department of Commerce will emphasize workforce development, youth jobs, and investments to business corridors including cleaning and maintenance.
  • Helen’s Department of Parks & Recreation will offer extended hours, safe staffing, and community programming. It will also ensure that Rebuild projects are prioritized in areas of high crime. 
  • Helen’s Free Library of Philadelphia will ensure that libraries are open on evenings and weekends, offering extended hours and safe staffing. 
  • Helen’s Department of Licenses & Inspections will crack down on vacant lots and buildings, and significantly increase abatement activities.
  • Helen’s Law Department will dedicate increased staffing to code enforcement litigation against illegal dumping, nuisance businesses, and vacant properties.
  • Helen’s Department of Streets will improve lighting in our communities, and have more resources for effective trash cleanup. 
  • Helen’s Department of Health will build its strategy around treating gun violence trauma as a public health issue. 
  • Helen’s Behavioral Health & Intellectual Disabilities Department will spearhead programs dedicated to deploying mental health responders 24/7 citywide  
  • Helen’s Department of Public Property will implement more surveillance cameras on public properties, and ensure adequate lighting across city property
  • Helen’s Community Life Improvement Program (CLIP) will spearhead designated cleanups in the 57 blocks most impacted by gun violence, and will focus on deploying remedial resources to immediately address quality of life issues as they emerge in the 57 blocks most impacted by gun violence.
  • Under Helen’s administration, Mural Arts will expand its successful Guild paid apprenticeship program for justice-impacted people, and be provided with additional resources to focus on arts as a community healing tool in targeted zip codes 
  • Under Helen’s administration, the city will prioritize removing vacant abandoned vehicles, with the goal of the removal of 10,000 vehicles in her first 100 days in office. 
  • Under Helen’s administration, Philly Counts will utilize trusted messengers within violence-impacted communities to increase access to city services. 
  • Under Helen’s administration, Philly 311 will be overhauled so that it can serve as a vehicle to improve service delivery, and additionally will focus on equity in response to city service complaints and prioritize quality of life issues in the 57 most violence-impacted blocks.
  • Helen’s Office of Innovation and Technology will work with the Police Department to ensure that it is making the best use of modern policing technology, and provide data critical to achieving proactive code enforcement in neighborhoods. 
  • Helen’s Department of Finance will prioritize public safety in the budget and as a performance metric for every operating department.
  • Helen will also:
    • Clean and green vacant lots, with the goal of the remediation of 50% of all identified vacant lots in her first six months in office.
    • Clear alleys, including overgrown vegetation that fosters crime and unsafe conditions, expanding resources available for this work.
    • Protect against injuries and loss of life caused by vehicle crashes, including by removing barriers and increasing access to neighborhood slow zones.
    • Establish a reentry job training program focused on rehabilitating vacant properties to create affordable housing.
    • Ensure that all communities have access to block parties and community-building events, providing additional security when needed instead of denying permits to neighborhoods impacted by violence. She will also expand access by funding a “Block Party in a Box” program, where neighbors seeking to build community can access city-provided moon bounces, and supplies from food to bubbles.
    • Deploy foot and bike patrols to business corridors where requested to help prevent property crimes directed towards small businesses, and to help businesses recover in the aftermath of property crime and damage, and improve law enforcement interface with immigrant-owned businesses.
    • Invest in holistic solutions to address unlicensed dirt bikes and ATVs that can create safety issues on dense city streets. In addition to targeted crackdowns of use associated with other criminal activity, she will convene a task force to explore alternative approaches to address the prevalence of ATVs and dirt bikes on our streets, with the goal of reducing associated problems and ensuring that drivers, bikers, and pedestrians feel safe. She will pursue funding initiatives for safe riding outlets and spaces, as well as advance STEM curricula in Philadelphia schools that harness interest in dirt bikes and ATVs to teach students math, science, and engineering, and other positive outlets for young riders.
Helen Will Ensure Safe and Secure Housing and Increase Public Health.

Both housing and healthcare are human rights. Helen believes that every person in Philadelphia needs a home that can keep them safe and protected, and that her success as mayor should be judged by the increased health of its residents.

  • Since communities with the highest rates of gun violence also have a disproportionate share of evictions and substandard housing, Helen will prioritize eviction prevention and rental assistance resources to these neighborhoods, with a focus on the 57 blocks most impacted by gun violence.
  • Helen will dramatically expand services to families in zip codes that experience high rates of gun violence, including guaranteeing universal access to treatment for mental health or addiction, in-home family support services, and healthcare and hospital-based intervention strategies.

A Gym administration will explore initiatives to address the legacy of mistrust between Philadelphia law enforcement and community members, and provide resources for Philadelphians, particularly those from communities that have historically experienced overwhelmingly negative interactions with law enforcement officials. To begin the long process of rebuilding trust, a Gym administration will focus on improving police-community relations and accountability, and better ensuring that returning Philadelphians who have been incarcerated do not continue to have negative experiences with the criminal justice system. Helen will mandate rigorous evaluation that focuses on assessing outcomes for all public safety programs to ensure we only invest in what works.

Helen Will Assess All Safety Spending Based on Outcomes.

For too long, the City has only measured what money it budgets and what activities have been performed, without ever thoroughly evaluating the outcomes of this spending on actually increasing safety and improving quality of life. This will change in a Gym administration. Accountability means that all public safety-related spending, whether performed by the City or community and nonprofit organizations, will be regularly and transparently reviewed, and the City will invest in rigorous capacity building if existing resources are inadequate to meet critical needs. This approach will apply across the board, from policing strategies to community violence prevention as well as both incarceration and sentencing alternatives, to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past and devoting public resources to approaches that are ineffective or counterproductive. As mayor, Helen will make sure that decisions are evidence based, and effective in achieving goals of deterring crime, reducing recidivism, remedying harm, and increasing safety and well-being for residents.

Helen Will Improve Police-Community Relations.

Improving police and community relations in Philadelphia starts with ensuring that law enforcement officers do not perpetuate acts of injustice and harm against historically disenfranchised communities. In order to do this, the city must improve police oversight and accountability.

  • Spearhead reforms to protect against the use of excessive force that harm police-community relations, and create clear guidelines for the Police Department and other law enforcement officers to follow in the wake of civil protests and demonstrations to ensure that those exercising their First Amendment right are kept safe. 
  • Strongly fund and support the Citizens Police Oversight Commission to ensure that any systemic issues as well as reports of misconduct can be thoroughly investigated, and proactively work to implement the Commission’s recommendations.
  • Ensure a comprehensive review and regular quality auditing of internal Police Department investigations and hearings relating to allegations of misconduct, to identify areas in need of reform.
  • Convene a task force of City officials to review payouts and settlements, and develop policies and procedures to help minimize risk and prevent future misconduct and liability — especially around law enforcement misconduct. 
  • Using data reported under the Bailey agreement, continue reducing the overall number of incidences of ‘stop and frisk’ policing which is both a failed crime fighting strategy and damages police community relations.
Helen Will Ensure the Formerly Incarcerated Are Set Up to Succeed.

Helen will improve the city’s jail systems and overhaul reentry so that those who come through the criminal justice system are fully supported to engage in productive work and community life. Helen will:

  • Create programs and secure funding to ensure that as many individuals incarcerated in City jails as possible can work with a City social worker, employment advisor, and housing counselor to create a plan to address barriers to successful reentry to be executed upon release. 
  • Allocate more funding to the Defender Association of Philadelphia to hire more public defenders, ensuring that caseloads are lower so that defendants are better represented. This funding will also allow for more social workers to be hired, ensuring that those involved in the justice system are provided access to housing, mental health, vocational training and placement, and drug treatment resources. 
  • Establish and implement a staffed civilian board overseeing the Department of Prisons, with a defined mission, independent oversight, and investigative powers to provide critical policy changes needed to make our jails safer for incarcerated people and prison staff.
  • Bolster medical treatment within our City jails and address pervasive deficiencies that compromise medical and mental health treatment provided to those who are incarcerated.
  • Work to reduce our City jails’ reliance on segregated housing, which has detrimental impacts to the mental health and wellbeing of those incarcerated, and has repercussions for community safety upon release of incarcerated persons who have been subjected to such conditions. She will emphasize incentives, instead of punishment, to ensure that our jails are safe, and those incarcerated are provided with the stability they need to safely return to their communities. 
  • Provide resources to the Department of Commerce to boost participation in the Philadelphia Re-Entry Program (PREP) Tax Credit, which provides tax credits to businesses that employ someone for 20 hours or more per week who was released from incarceration within the last seven years, or who is on parole or probation.