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Essay: Deploying the National Guard is a lazy way out

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This article appears ahead of “Brokering Peace: The House of Umoja & a Safer Philadelphia,” a Nov. 30 WHYY community conversation focused on improving public safety by revisiting lessons learned from the past. Register here.

State Rep. Amen Brown called on outgoing Governor Tom Wolf to deploy the Pennsylvania National Guard to “provide much-needed support to Philadelphia in dealing with this gun violence crisis.”

The rep’s appeal followed the first weekend in November, when 39 people were shot, including nine people shot in front of a bar in Kensington. To date, more than 450 people have been killed in Philadelphia.

While I understand the frustration with the violence that is unfolding, deploying the National Guard to the city would be a disaster.

For starters, the National Guard would be nothing more than glorified babysitters.

They cannot enforce laws, and their priority would be to protect property, not people. The National Guard cannot restore hope, it cannot improve the conditions of our schools and programs, it cannot heal the fractured relationship between police and communities, and above all, the National Guard is not able to crush the oxen.

Second, what are we, as a city, going to do that’s innovative and urgent when the soldiers are supposed to slow down the violence? Finally, the National Guard cannot stay forever; so when they leave, what happens next? What is the plan?

I regularly walk the streets of Philadelphia, especially those considered “high crime areas”.

The majority of people I’ve spoken to don’t want to adhere to strict curfews or see the military on every corner of their neighborhood. I was even asked, “Will the soldiers care about us, or will they be even colder to us than the police?”

To call in the National Guard is to get by lazily. What Philadelphia Needs is more innovative intervention efforts.

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