"Got a gun, get a lock."

That's the motto of a new initiative by Philadelphia City Council, law enforcement agencies and those working to reduce deadly violence to encourage gun owners to lock their weapons.

The Philadelphia sheriff's office expects to give out more than 500 free gun locks Monday during National Night Out events and plans to distribute thousands more in the weeks to come.

During a news conference announcing the effort Monday morning, Council President Darrell Clarke said anyone can get one — no questions asked.

"We are not going to ask you to show ID or registration for your weapon because, frankly speaking, if someone wants to lock an illegal gun, I'm OK with that," he said. The city has spent about $2,000 purchasing gun locks so far, according to Clarke's spokeswoman Jane Roh.

Clarke and other advocates said the effort would help prevent children from accidentally shooting themselves or others — in June, a 4-year-old from North Philadelphia died after shooting herself in the head. Monday morning, Philadelphia police said a 5-year-old in Germantown shot himself in the hand and was reported in stable condition.

"It just takes a few seconds to unlock that gun," said Shira Goodman with Ceasefire PA. "But for the person who is contemplating suicide or is angry or is depressed at that moment, the couple seconds it takes to unlock that gun could mean the difference between their life and death or somebody else's."

Gun owners who would like a free lock can get one by calling the city's Safe Storage Hotline, 215-686-3572, even if the weapon was purchased illegally or is not registered.

Free gun locks will also be distributed during National Night Out events at the following locations:

Fair Hill Square Park
4th and Lehigh Street
5 to 8 p.m.

Rose Playground
North 75th Street and Lansdowne Avenue
6 to 8:30 p.m.

32nd and Cumberland streets
5 to 8:45 p.m.

Written by Katie Colaneri for Newsworks.

If you own a gun, Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams wants you to put a lock on it. The sheriff said if guns are locked up, a child, or a person who is angry or suicidal, is less likely to harm themselves or someone else.


To promote gun safety—and recognize National Night Out, held each year on the first Tuesday evening in August — Williams announced plans by he and City Council members to distribute approximately 500 free gun locks during three National Night Out events around the city last night and tonight, Aug. 2. The location for tonight’s give-away is 32nd and Cumberland streets, 5 p.m. — 8:45 p.m., in cooperation with the Strawberry Mansion Faith-Based Coalition.

“A gun lock is a tool that can be used to keep the public safe, including children and inexperienced gun owners, regardless of whether the weapon is registered or not,” Williams said. “The message is all about gun safety for everyone, and saving lives.”

Williams spoke during an announcement of a Safe Storage initiative Monday morning at Temple University Hospital. Several entities came together, including Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke, City Council Public Safety Chair and Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams, Temple’s Health System and its Cradle to Grave Program, Mothers in Charge, CeaseFirePA, the Father’s Day Rally Committee and the Sheller Family Foundation. Clarke introduced a law earlier this year that requires firearms and ammunition to be locked away, out of reach from minors.

“There are few things more outrageous than the death of a child by her own hands or the hands of a playmate or sibling, simply because adults did not act responsibly and keep guns locked far out of reach,” Clarke said. “Children who die in these entirely preventable tragedies are not the only victims. The children who pulled the trigger and the adults who failed to keep them safe must live with an indescribable shame for the rest of their lives.”

The aim of Safe Storage is to give away free gun locks for gun owners — who have guns legally or illegally — and for them to lock up their guns, especially if they have young children in the home. The event promotes neighborhood engagement, public safety and police and community partnerships.

“Locks work,” said CeaseFirePa Executive Director Shira Goodman, whose organization works with people and communities to stand against gun violence. “Obviously a lock doesn’t work if you don’t lock it up.”

Almost three decades ago, Temple University Hospital’s Dr. Amy Goldberg was a young surgical resident when a 4-year-old boy arrived with gunshot wounds to his upper body and was in cardiac arrest.

“We opened his chest and did our best to reverse the devastation caused by the bullets,” said Goldberg, surgeon-in-chief at Temple University’s Health System. “Well, we were unable to save him. He was shot by his older brother with a gun that was left unattended and unsecured in their home. So many tragedies occurred that day and continue to occur in our neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia.”

And again just last week, Goldberg said a 10-year-old girl was shot in North Philadelphia and brought into the hospital.

“Hard to call her lucky after being shot, but she sustained a wound to her arm only and will live,” Goldberg said. “Unfortunately, we here at Temple, as well as the other trauma centers across the city, know far too well the damage that gun violence produces.”

Goldberg continued, “Our patients are killed, left paralyzed from the neck or waist down, unable to walk, breathe on their own or care for themselves. They are left with colostomy wounds that need to be cared for and they are forever changed both physically and mentally, but wounds from guns, guns left unattended, these deaths and injuries can be prevented and must be prevented.”

Councilman Jones, who represents the 4th District, told the audience that he knew of at least 12 or more people who have been shot or killed by guns.

“This gun lock program is essential,” Jones said. “Gun locks add an additional step, an additional thought, an additional action that may prevent someone from doing something that they may regret for the rest of their life.”

Dorothy Johnson-Speight, founder and national executive director of the nonprofit Mothers In Charge, said she knows gun locks isn’t a panacea for gun violence, but acknowledged that it’s a step in the right direction.

“So many lives are being lost today and especially of young children, when they get their hands on guns and there is no lock on them,” said Johnson-Speight, whose son was murdered in 2001. “We want to be out of business; we don’t want mothers to keep coming to our organization because they have to bury their sons and daughters to violence.”

According to the website for the National Association of Town Watch, called National Night Out.

Written by Ryanne Persinger for the Philadelphia Tribune.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A Latino has reached the rank of captain for the first time in the 300-year history of the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office.

Capt. Michael Bastone was among five men promoted by Sheriff Jewell Williams.

The office says Bastone scored the second highest of those who took the test. He's been with the sheriff's office for 25 years.

Bastone said in a statement that he was humbled.

Published in the New Jersey Herald on May 27, 2015

Payments to Philadelphia's city treasury and utilities, from mortgage foreclosures and delinquent tax, gas and water bills, surged to $58.3 million last year, a 40% jump from $34.4 million in 2013, according to a statement from the city's elected Sheriff, Jewell Williams. The office, which also transport prisoners, has in the past been accused of inefficiency and favoritism in its management of delinquent property accounts.

"The increase in revenue can be attributed to two changes," says Williams' office: First: a new policy "that requires purchasers of properties to make final settlement within thirty days after the sale is held. In the past, final payment could be made months after a property was sold." Second, "a new data management system which increased the speed of processing sales and collecting payments."

“The faster we get paid for properties, the faster we can send delinquent taxes and municipal fees to the City,” Williams said in a statement. The payments include $22.7 million in back taxes from foreclosed properties, $8.5 million in back water bills, and $5.4 million to the city-owned Philadelphia Gas Works. 

Willaims also says his office has speeded up processing deeds to foreclosure buyers to "20 days or less," from "months" in the past. "People who purchase properties at sheriff sales need a deed to take possession of the property and return it to productive use," Wiliams added.

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A Deputy Sheriff who died back in 1982 trying to stop two men from robbing a bar in West Philadelphia now has a plaque dedicated in his honor, laid in the sidewalk in front of the Criminal Justice Center.

It’s the 266th Hero Plaque Dedication, but organizer James Binns notes Roy Fortson, Jr. was the first Philadelphia Deputy Sheriff to be killed in the line-of-duty, since the office was founded in 1750.

“He could have taken a pass. The law enforcement officer in him came out and he did engage them, but was shot five times and killed.”

His family is grateful for the recognition, including Fortson’s widow, Edna.

“My heart is overwhelmed. I feel the love that you showed my husband. As a servant of god, he did what he was required to do that night, not knowing that it would be his last.”

Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams says laying the plaque outside the Criminal Justice Center serves as a reminder of the challenges brave officers face, and that “we will never forget a fallen officer.”

Written by Steve Tawa for CBS News on June 1, 2014.

For Helen Clowney, working with and serving the neighbors on her neatly kept, tree-lined block in North Philadelphia has been a labor of love - one that has endured a half-century.

Looking out on the cherry blossoms that brighten the 2200 block of North Woodstock Street, Clowney speaks with pride of the street where she has lived her entire life and served as a block captain for 50 years. She is retiring this spring.

"It's a family block. It's like family. We're very close," Clowney said Thursday.

"If somebody gets sick, everybody steps in and helps," she said. "If they need something, we try to help them get it. It's just a close-knit block."

Last week, Clowney was honored by her neighbors, family, and community leaders at her church, St. Martin de Porres. More than 100 people attended.

Clowney, a widow who doesn't like to discuss her age, said she knew every person living on the block of 70 homes between Susquehanna Avenue and Dauphin Street.

"I can tell you who lives in each house," Clowney said.

And her neighbors know her for her activism, her generosity, and the whistle she blows when calling for them to participate in street cleanups several times a year.

"Miss Helen is one of the icons of this block," said neighbor Paul Richards. "She's going to be sorely missed as our block captain."

When it's time to clean up the block, "she gets out that whistle," Richards said. "She goes from the top of the block, blowing that whistle, and she has a few of the kids knocking on doors."

When the work is done, she gives everyone a treat, Richards said, usually a pretzel and water ice.

He and others said Clowney is known for organizing the street's annual Memorial Day block party.

Another neighbor, Bernice Hines, also recalled Clowney blowing her whistle to call out neighbors for projects.

"She used the whistle to say, 'All you lazy birds, get out here. You're a part of this block. Show your commitment to it,' " Hines said.

Asked what she liked about being a block captain, Clowney said, "It just makes me feel good inside. When we have affairs in the block, we never have any trouble. Everybody is just family."

Clowney noted that she has a cocaptain, Willie Mae Clark, who has worked with her for many years. "She's a very good person, and I think she should be recognized, too," Clowney said.

Clowney, a graduate of Philadelphia High School for Girls who spent her life as a stay-at-home mother with one child, said she enjoyed walking children to school and back home again.

Among her other interests, she said, she enjoys spending time at the Martin Luther King Older Adult Center on Cecil B. Moore Avenue, where she leads a poetry class.

Clowney also likes to cut a few steps doing line dances. She said she enjoys doing the electric slide and the cha-cha slide. "The Baltimore - that's my favorite. They named that one after me," she quipped. "I taught my granddaughter, my son-in-law, and my daughter."

Her son-in-law, Tony Leonard, said Clowney goes to meetings with elected officials in the community and attends monthly meetings with police at the 22d District at 17th Street and Montgomery Avenue. She describes Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams and City Council President Darrell L. Clarke, who grew up in the neighborhood, as "two of my kids."

She is pleased that a neighbor, Jannette Robinson, will take over as block captain. Clowney said the street also has three junior block captains, two boys and a girl.

Clowney said she was stepping down because "I thought it was time enough for someone else to step up to the plate and take my place after 50 years."

Hines, her neighbor, stood on her front steps and looked down proudly.

"You see this block and the way it looks. It looks this way because of her," Hines said. "She has worked hard to keep it intact."

Written by Vernon Clark for the Philadelphia Inquirer on May 6, 2014.

Last week Sheriff Jewell Williams lead Operation Sunrise, a city wide sweep which brought in over a dozen fugitives with outstanding warrants.