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$350K Federal Grant Received to Study Kensington Initiative

Topic: Opioids

HARRISBURG —Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, and Temple University are today announcing that the city has received a AROUND OUR TOWNS$358,803 Innovative Prosecution Solutions Grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to add a research partner—Temple University—to the Kensington Initiative. The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, and Bureau of Justice Assistance operate the Innovative Prosecution Solutions Program to assist state and local jurisdictions in addressing violent crime. This is the first time that the Office of Attorney General has received a federal grant dedicated to studying the effectiveness of law enforcement strategy in Philadelphia in at least a decade.

The Kensington Initiative—also known as the Violent Crime and Opioid Reduction Partnership —is a unique partnership started by Attorney General Shapiro between local, state, and federal law enforcement to target major criminal drug organizations in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. It is an intelligence-led partnership primarily between the Office of Attorney General and the FBI, with support from the Philadelphia Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, SEPTA Transit Police and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard Counter Drug Aviation Unit. In addition to investigations and prosecutions, the Kensington Initiative prioritizes engagement with community partners after operations to ensure the targeted areas remain drug free.

“I’ve heard the people of Kensington loud and clear—they want violent criminals and dangerous drugs out of their neighborhoods so that they can walk down the street with their families without fear,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “The Kensington Initiative was designed to restore that sense of safety to this community, and we have already seen success. This grant will allow us to fully study the effectiveness of our strategy and identify areas for improvement. I’m grateful to the U.S. Department of Justice for recognizing the importance of this program and I look forward to continuing to collaborate with our law enforcement partners, the Mayor’s Office, and Temple University to keep the people of Kensington safe.”

“The opioid crisis has inflicted immeasurable harm on our communities, including contributing to increased violence and other criminal activity,” said Mayor Kenney. “Efforts like the Kensington Initiative and the city-led Philadelphia Resilience Project are using targeted, data driven approaches to improve public safety and quality of life for our residents. I appreciate the support of the Innovative Prosecution Solutions Grant because it will help us evaluate the efficacy of our law enforcement strategies so we can ultimately have an even greater impact.”

“We are excited to be the research partner to support this innovative data-driven partnership effort to reduce violence and opioid use,” said Caterina Roman, Associate Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Faculty Fellow of the Public Policy Lab at Temple University. “With the grant funding, we have a unique opportunity to collect data that will help us measure the effectiveness of the strategy on a range of important community outcomes.”

Philadelphia experienced a 28% increase in homicides from 2013-2017 and has a violent crime per capita rate almost 2.5 times higher than the national average, with neighborhoods such as Kensington experiencing the most severe uptick. Philadelphia’s overdose rate is 3.5 times the national rate, and the Kensington neighborhood has the highest concentration of overdose deaths in the city.

The Innovative Prosecution Solutions Grant will add a research partner to the Kensington Initiative to assist with building a strategic set of performance measures needed to provide regular feedback and monitoring of the strategy. The research will focus not solely on performance management but also on impact evaluation. The grant will also cover the hiring of a Kensington Initiative Program Manager.

The program has three primary objectives:

  1. Implement an evidence-based collaborative policing and prosecuting intervention designed to reduce violent crime and opioid overdose deaths.
  2. Improve the effectiveness of prosecutors’ processes and procedures.
  3. Establish a sustainable partnership that includes researchers to evaluate the effectiveness of the strategy.

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