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Philadelphia reaches a ‘devastating’ 300 homicides for the year

WPVI-TV

(PHILADELPHIA) -- Philadelphia, which is battling an epidemic of gun violence, has reached 300 homicides for the year, police said.

The 300th victim was an 18-year-old man shot multiple times Monday night, according to ABC Philadelphia station WPVI. Three weapons were used and at least 54 pieces of ballistics were recovered at the scene, Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Frank Vanore told reporters.

Also among this year's victims are a 16-year-old boy who was fatally shot three times in the face and a 17-year-old boy gunned down near his high school in the middle of the afternoon.

"Every act of gun violence is an unspeakable tragedy. The fact that our city has lost 300 souls to date this year is devastating," Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney told reporters Tuesday. "The surging gun violence that we’ve seen in our city and cities across the country pains us all."

At this time last year, the city had 304 homicide victims, police said. Last year Philadelphia reached a record high, ending the year with 562 homicides.

To the mayor, easy access to guns is the biggest issue.

"In Pennsylvania -- unlike New Jersey or New York or California -- it's very, very easy to obtain a firearm. You and I could drive up to Bucks County [in Pennsylvania] this weekend and probably buy a bag of guns and sell them out of the trunk of my car," Kenney told a reporter. "And that's the major problem."

The mayor stressed, "We implore everyone from elected officials to community members to work together to find solutions to solve this deeply complex issue."

"To address the availability and ease of access to firearms, we'll always be fighting an uphill battle. The police department is investigating these crimes and they continue to take a record number of illegal firearms off our streets, but they need the public's help to solve these crimes," he said.

With so many young people falling victim to gun violence or committing violence, Erica Atwood, senior director of the city's Office of Policy and Strategic Initiatives for Criminal Justice and Public Safety, highlighted programs available for high-risk youths.

"These programs are centered in communities that are more vulnerable to gun violence, and are free and open to youth and young adults," she said at the press briefing Tuesday. "Additionally, there are a number of community organizations that we have funded through our community expansion grants that serve young people in vulnerable communities."

The city also aims to keep children safe through a curfew that's in effect this summer for kids 17 and younger, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Curfew centers are now available, Atwood said. If "parents are working two and three jobs and don't have the ability to have child care," she said, the curfew center "provides an opportunity for us as a community to know where our kids are, and really kind of rebuild that connective tissue in neighborhoods to take care of one another."

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