Preventing gun violence one block at a time

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Jamal Johnson (far left) stands with other “Peace Patrol” volunteers on September 15, 2023, on Front and Clearfield in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, the USA experienced more than 30,000 gun violence deaths this year.  The number of gun violence incidents, and the number of individuals injured or killed during each incident, are causing great alarm nationwide.

Currently, few approaches seem capable of effectively addressing what appears to be an increasingly dangerous situation. 

First, restrictions on carrying guns in public places are being removed nationwide. This means more people can carry guns as they walk or drive along the street, sit in the park, shop in stores, and dine in restaurants.

Second, rarely a weekend passes without dozens of gun shows being held. Each gun show attracts hundreds of people seeking to purchase guns and ammunition. There appears to be no limit on the number of guns or ammunition a single person can own. Many people own several guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition for each gun owned.

Third, we do not know who owns what. Fewer restrictions and numerous gun shows reportedly have helped millions of USA residents legally purchase more than 400 million guns.  Finding accurate data on the total number of privately-held guns in the USA, including those illegally purchased, is unlikely because some guns are home made or otherwise not in any current gun tracking system. The same is true for ammunition – there is no reliable data about the amount of ammunition privately held.

Many of these guns and bullets are being used in shooting incidents occurring in urban neighborhoods. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is among those cities reeling from hundreds of gun violence related incidents each year.

To address this danger, a unique approach is being used in Philadelphia to prevent gun violence. It is called “Operation Hug The Block”.

Rain or cold, 77 blocks experiencing the highest numbers of gun related violence incidents are being visited by the “Peace Patrol”. Each of these 77 blocks have had 10 or more shootings since 2015. 

For 77 consecutive nights, “Operation Hug The Block” volunteers are patrolling one of these 77 Philadelphia blocks, from 10 PM to 4 AM.  

During an exclusive interview, Jamal Johnson, one of the organizers and a Marine veteran, explained that the “Peace Patrol’s” purpose is to show block residents how they can effectively engage in anti-gun violence activities. He said: “No one is safe anywhere at any time from gun violence … people are being shot on street corners, while children are playing on the sidewalks, and while resting inside their homes.”

When asked whether “Operation Hug The Block” is similar to the Neighborhood Watch concept introduced during the 1970s, Johnson said: “Similar, in that we are encouraging block residents to be vigilant. However, we also implore them to be visible. For example, if many residents are sitting on their front steps and known to be vigilant, it is less likely that gun violence incidents will occur on that block.”

Johnson said: “We hope these 77 block residents also will encourage city officials to expend the resources necessary to prevent gun violence from occurring on their blocks.

For additional information about this “Operation” and other community-based crime prevention efforts in Philadelphia, please visit

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Preventing gun violence one block at a time

By Dr. Anne Sulton, Esq.
September 25, 2023