As crime and homicides continue to rise in Philadelphia, the city on Monday announced the creation of a 211 crime prevention hotline. The announcement follows a violent weekend that began when a 15-year-old boy died Friday after being shot in the head a day earlier during a carjacking. An undercover police officer was also shot while sitting inside a vehicle.
The 24-hour line was officially launched last week and works like 911, the emergency hotline, but will direct callers to resources and services that include conflict resolution, community support services, after-school programs, and behavioral health and crisis support services.
Callers will either be transferred to get information on whatever resources are desired or their contact information will be taken and someone will follow up with them. The goal of the hotline, the city said, is to reduce the likelihood of people engaging in violence by offering intervention services and helping residents address quality of life issues as well as trauma resulting from gun violence.
"Today is an important milestone in our fight against this crisis — one that will help save lives while connecting people to critical resources available in our communities," Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. "The creation of a Violence Prevention Hotline will enhance our ability to deliver needed services while also allowing us to increase our ability to get people to the resources and services they need, in a timely fashion."
To connect residents with services, the city is partnering with the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ) and 211 Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA).
Officials said that the 211 hotline is a preventative tool and that anyone experiencing or witnessing a crime in progress should still call 911. Hotline staff will receive two to four weeks of training and will shadow experienced staff before handling calls on their own.
"Every major issue that our region faces has its roots in poverty," Bill Golderer, CEO and President of the local United Way, said in a statement. "Gun violence is no exception. Philadelphians want to prevent violence in their neighborhoods and young people want to find programs that give them hope and opportunities."
The initiative comes as Philadelphia continues to experience a spike in violent crime not seen in years. As of Sunday, the Philadelphia Police Department reported 120 homicides, a 3% increase from last year. In 2021, as cities across the country were experiencing crime waves, Philadelphia recorded 562 murders.
On Monday, police were investigating a shooting that killed a man at a gas station where large bullet holes were seen in a gas pump. Responding officers were called to the scene after shots were fired. When they arrived, a trail of blood led them to the 28-year-old victim nearly a block away, Fox affiliate WTXF reported.
He had multiple gunshot wounds and was later pronounced dead.
The undercover officer who was injured by gunfire was recovering. Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw on Saturday tweeted that she was "grateful to walk into the hospital and see our officer’s smiling, albeit bloody, face."
"Our officers WILL NOT be deterred or intimidated by those that think they can victimize our communities without recourse; you will be found, and you will be arrested," she wrote.
The teen boy killed during an attempted carjacking on March 24 died Friday afternoon. Authorities initially believed Sean Toomey was hit by a stray bullet before concluding he was the victim of an attempted carjacking, the news outlet reported.