Congressman Chaka Fattah releases the following statement for "Crime on Our Minds," the symposium presented by The Next American City Magazine at Temple University today:
"The fight against crime is multi-tiered. Throughout my career I have fought to provide law enforcers with the resources they need while leading community initiatives and broader programs that attack the root causes of crime.
"I have worked to secure funding for surveillance cameras, patrol car laptops and advanced technology such as shot-locator detectors to enhance our short-staffed Police Departments.
"In addition, I have sponsored gun amnesties and community patrols. Even before the local 10,000 Men Movement trained volunteers for safer streets, I provided funding for Men United for a Better Philadelphia, its forerunner.
"This year, I organized Groceries for Guns, an amnesty that led to surrender of over 1,000 firearms to Philadelphia Police including sawed-off shotguns, semi-automatics and Saturday Night Specials -- the kind used in homicides, robberies and shootings. I partnered with State Senator Vincent Hughes and the Citizens Crime Commission to expand the CCC's Tip-Line to pay cash for information leading to confiscation of illegal firearms, and arrest of the criminal possessing them.
"Nationally, I have been a strong advocate for gun control in the uphill fight against entrenched pro-gun interests. I belong to the Congressional Task Force on Illegal Guns. I have partnered with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other mayors to remove legislative roadblocks to law enforcement tracing illegal guns used in crimes.
"But inextricably tied to the incidence of crime is the hopelessness, poverty and lack of opportunity felt by so many of our citizens. It is intellectually dishonest to think we can seriously reduce crime while we ignore the massive desperation in the lives of millions. Those who perceive their life chances as less than yours or mine are more apt to turn to crime.
"Our great cities like Philadelphia are our nation's future - a future that I intend to advance on the American agenda as the Chairman of the Congressional Urban Caucus. Yet we cannot simply focus on the skyline and culture palaces while we ignore those who live in the shadows of prosperity. That is a recipe for disaster.
"We must remember: changing the culture of crime in segments of our society goes beyond hiring more police, providing fancier technology or turning in firearms. We must show our young people that crime is a dead-end, literally, while education and a job provide the path to a successful life.
"This takes more than an assembly pep talk or a feel-good PSA. I have been a leader in programs to fight poverty, build affordable housing and level the playing field in terms of educational resources. Under-funding our city schools is like teaching our kids to swim in a pool with no water.
"It's been clearly shown that young people with improved life chances are far less likely to turn to crime. I am particularly proud of creating CORE Philly, which has provided 18,000 Philadelphia high school graduates since 2004 with last dollar scholarships' to enter college. In Washington I wrote and steered into law GEAR UP, the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness Undergraduate Program, which has provided $2 billion to help prepare six million low-income students for college.
"The fight against crime is all-encompassing. It means equipping our police and mobilizing our citizens. And it means improving the life chances of all our underserved citizens. When hopelessness vanishes, the false promise of the criminal life fades as well."