During a two-week period this month, 21 people were shot dead in Philadelphia. Most were probably killed with stolen or illegally purchased guns, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The scale of the carnage stunned Philadelphia, which is no stranger to gang violence or drive-by shootings and whose residents relish their Rocky, tough-guy image.
Danny Ramos knew two of the victims. He is a street worker for the city’s Youth Violence Reduction Partnership, which tries to steer away from a life of crime and early death. The killings have again focused attention on the deadly nexus between the illegal gun trade, drug trafficking, and youth violence. They also have forced some to wonder whether programs like the Youth Violence Reduction Partnership, which First Lady Laura Bush praised last month, are working. About 1,300 people — nearly all of them young men — have taken part. Half have been convicted of violent crimes, and two-thirds have been incarcerated. The program relies on intensive probation supervision, including evening and weekend checks by street workers and probation officers. “We’re like social workers, friends, sometimes even chauffeurs,” said Ramos, recalling the times he drove young men to court or school so they wouldn’t get sent back to jail.