In an effort to curb shootings and make going to and from school less dangerous for students, Philadelphia officials announced they will spend $1.8 million on installing security cameras near city high schools and middle schools in high crime neighborhoods.
Standing outside the John Bartram High School in Southwest Philadelphia, where a 17-year-old student was fatally shot in January after leaving campus, Mayor Jim Kenney and other city leaders said at a news conference Monday they hope the cameras will make criminals think twice about committing shootings around a school.
“We need to create a culture of if you’re going do something, somebody might be watching you,” city councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sánchez said.
Cameras that can be remotely monitored will be placed along routes students frequently take to and from Bartram and 18 other schools, officials said.
Craig Johnson, the deputy chief of school safety for the School District of Philadelphia, said the schools were chosen for the program based on information regarding shootings around those campuses. The cameras will be linked to the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center, where Philadelphia police monitor crime from real-time feeds.
“We hate to think that we have to have this environment where we have to have this coverage, but it’s a simple reality that people in the neighborhoods in the city of Philadelphia, they want us to do something,” Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke said at the press conference.
The move comes as shootings and murders in the City of Brotherly Love have climbed to record levels. Last year, Philadelphia set an all-time annual homicide record with 562 killings. As of Monday, the city has recorded 227 homicides this year, 18 fewer than this time in 2021, according to police department crime statistics.
More than 800 non-fatal shootings have occurred in the city this year as of Sunday, according to gun violence crisis data tracked by the city’s Office of the Controller. At least 95 young people 18 or younger have been shot in the city this year, according to the data.
Johnson said the need for the new security cameras is being prompted by the shootings of teenagers, many near their schools.
On May 17, a 16-year-old boy was shot seven times while sitting outside KIPP Philadelphia Charter School in the city’s Parkside neighborhood. Just seven days later, three students, ages 15 to 17, were shot and wounded after leaving the Simon Gratz High School Mastery Charter in the city’s Tioga-Nicetown section.
In April, a 15-year-old boy was shot to death about a block from Tanner Duckrey School in North Central Philadelphia when a gunman fired at least 20 shots.
“Youth being shot or being murdered almost on a daily basis doesn’t even garner that much attention,” Johnson said. “It’s almost like it’s expected or normalized and that’s a really sad place to be.”
The announcement of the program comes less than a month after a teenager armed with an AR-15 rifle allegedly killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Clarke said he hopes the new cameras will also “create an environment where people feel a little more safe.”
“We need every child to be safe as they go to school, and come home later in the day,” Clarke said. “These cameras are a good start, and they’ll lend eyes to law enforcement officials working very hard to keep our kids safe from harm.”