This article contains Political Commentary
Sarah Hanlon, Staff
On Nov. 28, a Temple senior was shot and killed in broad daylight, just off the university’s North Philadelphia campus. At approximately 1:30 p.m., 21-year-old Samuel Collington parked an SUV at 2252 North Park Avenue and began to unload it after a trip to his family’s home in Prospect Park, Delaware County. Video evidence shows that a suspect approached the vehicle in an attempted robbery. After a struggle, Collington was shot twice in the chest. He was taken to nearby Temple University Hospital, where he died of his injuries.
Collington was a political science major, set to graduate this Spring. He was an active member of the Philadelphia community, and was working an internship as a Democracy Fellow at City Commissioner Omar Sabir’s office. The Collington family held a vigil to commemorate their son on Dec. 6. Temple is offering support for their students through the university’s Tuttleman Counseling Services.
Mayor Jim Kenney released a statement Sunday night. Kenney referred to the shooting as a case of “bad things happening to good people,” and reiterated the city’s focus on the gun violence epidemic.
The murder of an innocent college student sparked outrage in the Philadelphia area and rocked the Temple community. However, this is yet another example of the violence that holds a grip on the city. Philadelphia is experiencing its deadliest year on record, with at least 506 homicides in 2021 so far.
Collington’s murder happened just two weeks after 18-year-old Ahmir Jones was shot and killed on the 1700 block of Cecil B. Moore, also near Temple’s campus. On Nov. 16, Jones, a Pottstown High School senior, was walking with his girlfriend when two men attempted to rob them at 2:15 a.m. The men took the girl’s cellphone, then shot Jones in the chest.
Temple University and the Philadelphia Police both responded to Jones’ murder by increasing security patrols in key areas around and on campus. However, increased patrols did not deter the person who killed Collington.
Philadelphia’s rise in gun violence is not unique to this city. Unfortunately, a study by the Council on Criminal Justice estimates that homicides in United States cities increased by 30 percent from 2019 to 2020, and again by nine percent from 2020 through the first three quarters of 2021.
Politicians in cities across the country are responding to the violence by increasing funding for police forces. This comes one year after protesters nationwide called for cities to “defund the police” and re-allocate resources towards social welfare programs.
There is no definitive answer to explain the rise in gun violence across America. Some researchers point to socioeconomic strain caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Gun sales, thus the number of guns on the streets, spiked during the pandemic. Psychological stress and poor economic outlook, both effects of the pandemic, are linked to root causes of criminal behavior.
Other researchers suggest that the spike in gun violence is due to social unrest following the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. Inequality and social disruption are linked to criminal behavior, and cities across the United States experienced a similar uptick in gun violence following the shootings of Michael Brown and 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014. However, the exact causes of crime are complex, long-acting sociological issues that cannot be definitively proven, especially in the short-term.
Students across Philadelphia are weary following the violence at Temple. Students have the right to feel safe on their campuses. However, it is important to remember that Philadelphia residents also have the right to feel safe in their own neighborhoods.
Gun violence affects people of all races and ethnicities, but it disproportionately harms communities of color, especially Black neighborhoods. Based on a report by the Philadelphia Police Department, Black men accounted for 73 percent of all gun homicides in 2019. When Black women were added, Black Philadelphians accounted for 85 percent of all gun homicide deaths for that year, even though they account for 43 percent of the city’s demographic makeup (Everytown Research, 2021).
Temple University’s undergraduate population is 56 percent white and 12 percent Black. La Salle University’s undergraduate population is 54 percent white and 17 percent Black.
With the city experiencing a record-breaking homicide rate, college students should be aware of crime near their campuses. No one thinks they will be a victim of a crime until it happens to them. However, students must respond with outrage to all gun violence in the city, not just the homicides near their schools.