Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams launches 'Summer of Peace'

Philadelphia, July 3 - Sheriff Jewell Williams will urge youngsters to have a peaceful summer as he visits children’s programs this summer.

The Sheriff will “deputize” children who take a gun safety pledge as part of his Summer of Peace initiative, according to a news release.

The effort was kicked off at the end of the 2016-17 school year, when Williams visited several schools to spread the summer of peace message.

The Sheriff and Canine Carter — a member of the Sheriff’s K-9 unit — visited the Greenfield School in Center City and the Powel School in West Philadelphia to educate students about how to “stay cool” when they encounter conflicts and what to do if they find a gun at home or in their neighborhood, according to a news release.

“Be respectful, don’t bully and most importantly, if you see a gun, don’t touch it,” said Williams. “Immediately tell a parent, a nearby adult and if you are alone in a home call 911.”

According to Children’s Defense Fund, a child or teen dies by gun in the U.S. every three hours and eight minutes.

Having a gun in the home makes the likelihood of accidental death four times higher and more than half of youths committing suicide by gun found it at home and it usually belonged to the parent, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

The office pointed to a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatricians that indicated “Nearly 1,300 children die and 5,790 are treated for gunshot wounds each year. Boys, older children and minorities are more likely” to fall victim to gun violence than others. In 2015, 42 percent of gun deaths were among Black children and teens.

“Don’t be a statistic,” Williams told the children when introducing Canine Carter to students at the Samuel Powel School in Powelton Village. “Use your mouth, not your fists or weapons, to settle differences. Don’t let things escalate.”

The Sheriff will be pressing this message during the months when youngsters may find themselves on the streets in tense situations: “In the warm weather months things can easily heat up. Giving kids the message they can keep themselves safe or prevent a crime is powerful and maybe if they hear it often enough they will practice what we preach. Summer is a time for fun, visiting the beach, having picnics and barbecues. I want them to stay cool in every way and help us all to have a summer of peace.”

As part of the Summer of Peace activities, the Sheriff is reaching out to groups of children at church and summer camps to take the following gun safety pledge:

I will never play with guns; if I see a gun, I won’t touch it.

I will remember that any gun I see might be loaded.

I will never go snooping or allow my friends to go snooping for guns in the house.

If I find a gun, I will tell a grown-up I know right away.

I know how important it is to keep myself safe.

Throughout the summer, the Sheriff’s Office will carry its safety message to outdoor festivals, summer gatherings, children’s programs and block captains, the news release stated.

The Office of the Sheriff is also working with Philadelphia Integrated Town Watch and Temple University Medical School’s summer outreach program to distribute gunlocks this summer to city residents to help keep children safe.

The Sheriff and City Council President Darrell Clarke began the gunlock program in August 2016. To date, more than 3,000 free gunlocks have been given to Philadelphia families through the Sheriff’s Office and City Council offices. Philadelphia residents can pick up free gunlocks at the Sheriff’s Office any weekday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., 100 S. Broad St. on the 5th floor. For more information call (215) 686-3572 or visit www.phillysheriff.com.


Tribune Staff Report / The Philadelphia Tribune