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Mayor Cherelle Parker declared a public safety emergency on city crime.

Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

2016 Fels Institute of Government graduate and Mayor Cherelle Parker signed an executive order declaring a citywide public safety emergency on Jan. 2. 

The order, Parker’s first official act since being inaugurated, calls for new Police Commissioner Kevin J. Bethel — along with Managing Director Adam Thiel and Public Safety Director Adam Geer — to develop a comprehensive plan to reduce violent crime within the first 100 days of the administration. The state of emergency is in effect for 100 days and will be extended if necessary. 

“We are going to expeditiously get every available resource into neighborhoods struggling from scourges of crime, gun violence, drugs, and addiction,” Parker said in her inaugural address

The state of emergency and executive order aim to combat thefts, shootings and the proliferation of open-air drug markets in Philadelphia. In 2023, more than 3,000 shooting incidents were reported in the city, alongside a 28% increase in retail theft and a 72.4% increase in vehicle theft.  

Parker’s public safety initiative will first focus on permanently shutting down open-air drug markets in the Kensington neighborhood, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Philadelphia experienced over 1,400 overdose deaths in 2022 — the highest recorded number in recent memory and an 11% increase from the previous year. 

Parker appointed Deputy Pedro Rosario as chief commissioner of the Kensington strategy portion of the plan.

Parker’s plan contrasts with the perceived lack of public safety policies during former Mayor Jim Kenney’s term. Kenney was criticized for his failure to address gun violence after two police officers were shot on July 4, 2022. In response to the shooting, he expressed that he was looking forward to not being mayor, which sparked outrage from community members. 

City Council Member Jamie Gauthier shared his optimism with regards to Parker’s efforts. Her move “sends a powerful message that she is ready to tackle our public safety emergency head-on,” Gauthier told the Inquirer.

In her 100-Day Action Plan that was also released on Jan. 2, Parker suggested that Philadelphia faces challenges in public safety, high poverty, quality-of-life concerns, housing availability, burdens on local businesses, and shortcomings in our educational system. 

The action plan outlines goals of increasing the number of police officers on the streets, reducing waste, cleaning up the city, increasing affordable housing, reducing barriers to employment and business development and providing programs for students outside of regular school hours. 

Parker pledged to fulfill her promises to the community at her inauguration, including two additional executive orders — an order to remove college degree requirements for occupations where they are deemed unnecessary, and an order to increase local government transparency and efficiency. 

“I want Philadelphia to know I am fully committed to ending this sense of lawlessness, and bringing order and a sense of lawfulness back to our city,” she said. 

Parker also emphasized the need to rebuild trust between the community and law enforcement. 

"Our officers must be guardians, not warriors," she said.