What happened to money for crime victim relocations? Philly Council committee tries to find out

Council had allocated $500,000 to help victims, but Council members say it has not been delivered
Philadelphia City Hall.
Philadelphia City Hall. Photo credit Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio)Philadelphia City Council members Tuesday ran into the same kind of bureaucratic frustrations that constituents often complain about, as they tried to figure out what happened to $500,000 they appropriated for crime victim relocation.

Diamond Wilson was shot in the face more than a year ago, but remains in the neighborhood where the shooting happened, despite her please for help. She lost her right eye and, as she testified, any feeling of safety.

“I am not properly relocated or protected. I am now living at a lesser capacity than before the assault,” said Wilson during a hearing Tuesday with the Joint Committees on Public Safety and the Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention.

“I can’t tell you how many times this past year me and my family have been intimidated by my neighbors.”

Wilson is precisely the kind of person Councilmember David Oh said he had in mind when he appropriated $500,000 for relocation services that he said have not been delivered. Council authorized the appropriation last November to help protect and, when necessary, relocate crime victims.

City of Philadelphia victim advocate Adara Combs said Council itself is partly responsible for the money’s lack of impact, because it appropriated the money with no strategy for how to spend it.

“Resources without proper planning or systems in place is just throwing money at a problem with no hope of ever solving that problem,” said Combs.

Oh says the plan was for the Managing Director’s Office to distribute the money to community groups that work with victims, but Shondell Revell of the Office of Violence Prevention said that to her understanding, part of the money was sent to the District Attorney’s Office and part remained in the Managing Director’s Office.

That angered both Oh and Councilmember Curtis Jones who demanded to know why.

“You need to give us the answer,” said Oh.

“Call whoever you need to call. Get that answer now,” said Jones.

Ravell was not able to get the answer during Tuesday’s hearing. He said the person with the information was not in, so committee chair Jones recessed the hearing until someone could provide a direct answer.

The Kenney administration said, in an emailed statement Tuesday evening, that the money was sent to the District Attorney's Office because it has experience in relocating witnesses and victims.

"Instead of standing up a separate new office," spokesman Kevin Lessard wrote, "the administration and MDO (Managing Director's Office) made a decision to use the funding in the budget that provides supports for shooting victims — including relocation — to increase funding for the existing organizations that currently do this work, including the DA’s Office and PAAN (Philadelphia Anti-drug/Anti-Violence Network)."

He said that in a transfer ordinance currently working its way through Council, $1 million in funding is dedicated to relocation services.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio