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Philadelphia Makes New Effort to Combat Urban Violence

Rising murder rates in Philadelphia have led community activists to organize efforts to curb the city's crime. Kwame Holman talks to local activists about their fight against violent crime.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now, a grassroots effort by men to reduce violence against men in a city with one of the highest murder rates in the country. Kwame Holman has our report.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    They lined up by the thousands on a bright Sunday morning in Philadelphia recently to answer an unusual call: to join a new movement against violence that's earned their city the nickname Killadelphia. The call was for 10,000 men, and close to that many turned out, more than 100 on motorcycles.

    They were young and middle-aged and mostly black, all volunteers to help stem the gun violence that's claimed more than 350 lives in this city so far this year. Charles Dumas teaches at Temple University where the rally was held.

    Why are you and all these men here?

  • CHARLES DUMAS, Temple University:

    Because we have an epidemic right now here, an epidemic of violence in our city. And I think it's up to us to stop it. It's not up to the politicians; it's not up to the federal government. It's up to black men and it is up to us to take our neighborhoods back. And that's why we're here. That's why I'm here.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Darren Cathey works as a printer.

  • DARREN CATHEY, Painter:

    I'm here because I'm concerned, like a lot of the brothers, about the crime in the city. I want to make a change and make a difference.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    The vast majority of shooting victims have been African-American in a city that is 44 percent black. And while the retiring police commissioner, Sylvester Johnson, says local media have exaggerated the crime problem this year, he acknowledges the toll it's taken on hundreds of African-American families.

  • SYLVESTER JOHNSON, Commissioner, Philadelphia Police Department:

    Three hundred and nineteen families have been devastated. So I would never sit here and say, "We only have 319." One is too many. So the fact is that before, and I'm being very realistic, when a black got killed, he was on page nine, and now he's on page one.