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Delaware County, Pa., Boasts $100M for Gun Violence Programs

In the last three years, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency has invested $35 million in state and federal funds to support 160 projects across Delaware County, some of that going to gun violence investigation.

A gun being pointed by an unidentifiable person.
(TNS) - On a visit to Delaware County on Thursday, Lt. Gov. Austin Davis spoke of $100 million in the governor's budget directed toward gun violence protection while announcing the creation of an office to address this issue.

In doing so, he spoke of the success seen in Delaware County, in particular in Chester, as something to be emulated across the commonwealth.

"To combat the epidemic of gun violence, we need to take a comprehensive approach that addresses the root causes, invests in community-based organizations working to prevent violence and supports law enforcement agencies," the lieutenant governor said. "That comprehensive approach is happening here in Delaware County and it's a model for the rest of the commonwealth."

In the last three years, Davis said, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency has invested $35 million in state and federal funds to support 160 projects across Delaware County. Some of that has gone to gun violence investigation and prosecution grant funds in the county district attorney's office.

Violence Intervention Prevention funds are spent to expand programs in Chester. They have also gone toward re-entry support, addressing behavioral health concerns and enhancing crisis intervention.

Another 17 grants totaling $6 million have been given to police departments in Delaware County to help train, recruit and retain more police officers as well as upgrade their systems and technology.

"The truth is that every corner of our great commonwealth is dealing with this epidemic," Davis said. "It isn't just a Delaware County problem. It's a Pennsylvania problem and it's uniquely an American problem but it's a problem that we can and must do something about."

That's why he said Gov. Josh Shapiro put $100 million in the budget to address gun violence across Pennsylvania for prevention measures, as well as investigation and prosecution programs.

"Building safer communities requires an all-hands-on-deck approach," the lieutenant governor said. "For the first time in our commonwealth's history, we're proposing the creation of an Office of Gun Violence Prevention...We'll be the second state in the country to do so."

Colorado was the first state to create such an office in 2021.

Davis said he got started in public service as a teenager who attended a city council meeting after a shooting on his block.

"We're working to ensure every Pennsylvanian can be safe and feel safe in their community," Davis said. "We believe it's foundational to make sure that people have a sense of safety and security, whether you live in Newtown Square or Chester City, whether you live in a city like Philadelphia or the suburbs or more rural community, every community deserves to have that basic right to safety and security."

Davis said that Pennsylvania has experienced a 17 percent decrease in homicides in 2023 compared to 2022.

Here, in Delaware County, there's been a 29 percent reduction in homicides, outpacing the statewide decrease and marking a significant milestone in the county's battle against gun violence, Delaware County Council Chair Dr. Monica Taylor said.

The way it's gotten done, she said, has been through enhancing law enforcement capabilities, supporting community-based interventions and fostering environments where safety and peace can flourish.

Taylor noted the $40 million investment county council made to upgrade the county emergency communications system and $1 million set aside for the InfoShare system for communication between law enforcement agencies.

"This will dramatically improve our response times and coordination in crisis situation," she said. "The technology not only enhances our operational efficiency but also strengthens the safety net for our communities."

Taylor pointed to the success of county District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer's commitment to the Chester Partnership for Safe Neighborhoods, noting the decrease of homicides in Chester by 68 percent between 2020 and 2023.

"These are not just statistics," she said. "These are lives saved, families preserved and communities strengthened. As we move forward, it is imperative that we continue to invest in these proven strategies. The proposed $100 million in the 2024-25 budget by the Shapiro-Davis administration will further empower us to sustain and expand our efforts. This funding is not merely an expenditure but an investment in our future. A future where every resident in Delaware County can live without the fear of gun violence."

Money spent

In a press release later in the day, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency said it has invested nearly $35 million in state and federal funds to support 160 projects across Delaware County, including 23 awards totaling more than $10.7 million made directly to Delaware County to support public safety needs including improving reentry supports, addressing behavioral health concerns, and crisis intervention efforts to advance strategies to reduce gun violence and other violent crime.

PCCD investments in Delaware County include:

—$2 million in Violence Intervention and Prevention funding to support and expand the county's successful Group Violence Intervention program in Chester in partnership with the Chester Police Department and community-based organizations.

—More than $1 million in Gun Violence Investigation and Prosecution grant funds to expand and improve intelligence gathering, investigatory and prosecutorial tools available to detectives and attorneys in the district attorney's office.

—More than $5.9 million to 16 police departments in Delaware County to help recruit and retain more officers, upgrade their technology and records management systems, and provide training to serve communities more effectively.

The $100 million proposed by the Shapiro-Davis administration for 2024-25 would include statewide:

—$37.5 million for the Gun Violence Investigation and Prosecution grant program.

—$37.5 million increase for PCCD's Violence Intervention and Prevention program, bringing the total to $77.5 million in state funds (up from $40 million last year)

—$1 million to stand up an Office of Gun Violence Prevention within PCCD.

—$1.5 million to increase staffing at the Pennsylvania State Police to combat gun violence.

—$11.5 million to create a statewide Building Opportunity Through Out of School Time program, to reduce community violence by providing more after-school learning opportunities for young people.

—$11 million to create more welcoming environments by building parks, addressing blight, and improving shared spaces, such as parks, streets and playgrounds to promote safer communities.

—$5 million increase for the Nonprofit Security Grant Fund at PCCD, to provide resources for houses of worship, community centers, and other public spaces to equip themselves with security measures. That increase would bring the total for the program to $10 million.

©2024 Daily Times, Primos, Pa. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.