With homicide numbers skyrocketing, violence prevention advocates step up to help families

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — It’s difficult for Dr. Dorothy Johnson-Speight to watch the homicide rate in Philadelphia trend up, not down, compared to last year.

“It is truly impacting me in a way with these numbers that is painful,” she said. “I get angry. One minute I’m angry, the next minute I’m tearful.”

She founded Mothers In Charge 20 years ago after her son was senselessly killed over a parking space. The organization has volunteers like her who have experienced similar losses. They try to help other families, even virtually during the coronavirus pandemic.

“If you have not had the experience of having to bury a son or daughter or loved one to violence, you can’t imagine the pain, the trauma, the grief,” said Johnson-Speight.

She doesn’t want to see others endure the same traumas.

“They too are petrified because they have sons and daughters and children and loved ones that they’re afraid that they’re gonna have this experience as well because of what’s happening every single day and at at the rate that it’s happening.”

Earlier this week, seven people, including a 15-year-old boy, were shot and killed in separate incidents, all on the same day. Fifty people were victims of homicides in Philadelphia in just the first month of 2021.

The homicide numbers aren’t just numbers. They are lives taken away, and the pain is multiplied. Those who loved that person feel it; it becomes a part of them. Johnson-Speight’s organization does what it can to help families get through these traumatic experiences.

“We do that on a regular, consistent basis,” she said, “even with things called wellness calls to the victims.”

As for solutions, she said there isn’t a single entity that can turn things around. But police, citizens, elected officials — everyone needs to get on the same page.

“It’s not just one entity, one organization, one group of people that’s going to make it all better,” she added. “It’s gonna be the collective, collaborations. And I don’t see that a lot here.”