Candlelight Vigil to Commemorate City's Homicide Victims

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

PHILADELPHIA (February 15, 2010) - In memory of the 305 Philadelphia homicide victims of last year, Saint Joseph’s University students and members of the community will light 305 candles at an interdenominational prayer service to be held in the Chapel of St. Joseph-Michael J. Smith, S.J. Memorial, at Cardinal and City Avenues on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m.

Now in its fourth year, the vigil is the first of several anti-violence events hosted annually by the Institute for Violence Research and Prevention (IVRP) at SJU. The IVRP started the event when Philadelphia gained international attention as “Killadelphia,” surpassing the homicide rates of larger cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Each year’s series of events culminates in a public forum panel addressing violence prevention. In April, this year’s panel will discuss witness intimidation and the “stop snitching” subculture.

Since the event’s inaugural year, the number of homicide victims has fallen from more than 400 to 305 in 2009, an improvement Maria Kefalas, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Violence Research and Prevention and associate professor of sociology at SJU, credits to city police.

“Local enforcement has made a significant effort with its target hardening and saturation policing in the most violent areas of the city,” says Kefalas.

Still, many parts of Philadelphia continue to be very dangerous. Though the situation is improving, the number of homicides is still high and doesn’t take into account the thousands of non-fatal shootings that take place within city limits each year. Events like the vigil at SJU are an important part of making people aware of potential violence, she notes.

“The vigil is a chance for members of the University and wider community to contemplate the individual and collective toll that violence takes on our city,” says Kefalas.

Elizabeth A. Linehan, R.S.M., associate professor of philosophy, will preside, and Philadelphia Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Everett Gillison will also speak. The service is sponsored by the IVRP, Offices of Institutional Diversity and Mission and the Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Saint Joseph’s. The service and panel discussion are open to the public.

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