Joint Hearing on Witness Relocation Yields Few Answers

Philadelphia City council’s joint committee on Public Safety and the Special Committee on Gun Violence heard testimony regarding the use of $500,000 in allocated funds for the purpose of relocating victims of or potential victims of violence, including those who have witnessed crimes.

In 2021, Councilmember David Oh was made aware of issues related to witness relocation, and Philadelphia City Council allocated $500,000 to fund relocation via a mid-year transfer ordinance. However, according to the resolution authorizing the hearing, most of the funds have not been used.

Oh explained the impetus behind the hearing and the allocation of relocation funds, relating the story of nine mothers who were being shot at-even when they were accompanied by their young children.

“(These women were being shot at) not because they did anything (to the shooters), but because somehow, through the grapevine, (the shooters) believed they had cooperated with law enforcement,” Oh said.

Oh described visiting the homes of the victims and seeing clear evidence of gunfire, including bullet holes in the homes.

Councilmember Curtis Jones, chair of the Public Safety Committee, called the hearing vital to combating the city’s violence problems.

“Without people willing to bravely come forward to say something, justice grinds to a halt,” Jones said.

Adara Combs, the Philadelphia Victim Advocate, said the rising tide of violence is Philadelphia has a direct correlation on the safety of communities.

“With that increased lack of safety within our communities has come an increase of support for families that are directly impacted by imminent threats,” Combs said. “Shootings, (an increase in) homicides (means) countless citizens live every single day not sure whey they’re going to be the next target.”

Combs discussed Philadelphia’s Community Crisis Intervention Program (CCIP), which, in part, provides temporary relocation services to those in imminent danger.

“The services provided are different depending on what the family needs,” Combs said. “From July 2021 to November 2022, we’ve spent $95,747.86 locating community members experiencing imminent danger from gun violence.”

CCIP handles multiple aspects of a relocation, including housing, clothing, transportation, and home repairs.

When asked directly by Councilmember David Oh where the $500,000 in funds ended up, neither Combs nor Office of Violence Prevention Executive Director Shondell Revell had the information, prompting Councilmember Jones to pause the hearing until answers could be found.

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