What to Know Today

Inside Newark’s effort to protect students from neighborhood gun violence. From June through the end of August, more than 600 fatal shootings were reported nationwide involving children under age 18 as either victims or suspects, according to the Gun Violence Archive. And though federal data from 1992 to 2019 shows that less than 3 percent of youth homicides occurred on school grounds, the reverberations inside schools are being carefully considered as communities across the country find innovative ways to combat neighborhood violence. In Newark, New Jersey, a tight-knit network of local groups are leading anti-violence efforts in partnership with the city, Chalkbeat reports. “No way somebody is going to be able to pull off the same level of cognitive performance if they have [murder] running through their minds,” said Daniel Semenza, who directs research on interpersonal violence at Rutgers University’s New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center. 

Meanwhile, in Texas… Travis County leaders announced next steps in their efforts to prevent gun violence. A briefing for commissioners on Tuesday included the National Institute of Criminal Justice Reform and the Health Alliance for Violence Prevention in the second of three updates planned after the Uvalde school shooting

Homicides up 39 percent this year in Birmingham, Alabama. The city police department’s year-to-date public safety stats show 102 murders so far this year, versus 73 at the same point in 2021. According to AL.com, which is partnering with The Birmingham Times on a joint series about gun violence, that’s the city’s highest homicide rate since 1991. Their project will examine factors contributing to violent crime and amplify the voices of those working to reduce it.

Philadelphia city worker, mother of 3, caught in crossfire. Police say Tiffany Fletcher was hit in an afternoon gun battle between teenagers outside the Mill Creek Recreation Center, where she worked. Fletcher’s friends, family, and community members — including at least 30 participants in a “Pedal 4 Peace” bike ride around West Philadelphia — gathered on Saturday to honor the 41-year-old. “Beautiful young woman, raised her family, took care of her kids, worked for the community,” said Derrick Long, a local pastor who helped raise Fletcher. “She could have got jobs elsewhere. She wanted to give back. And she gave her life for that. She gave her life for that.” 

The Trace adds three new staffers. We’re very excited to announce the arrival of Mensah Dean, Fairriona Magee, and Sunny Sone to our team. Mensah and Fairriona started this week, and Sunny will join us next week — keep an eye out for their first newsletter next Thursday! More about each of them:

  • Mensah Dean, whose beat coverage has spanned education, courts, city hall and criminal justice for more than two decades, joins us from The Philadelphia Inquirer, where he was part of a team whose coverage of gun violence was named a 2022 Pulitzer Prize Finalist. Mensah will serve as our Philadelphia reporter — his latest report in the Inquirer examines the effectiveness of the city government’s anti-gun violence spending surge amid a staggering year of bloodshed. 
  • Fairriona Magee is joining The Trace as our first public health beat reporter, reporting from her home state of Georgia. Fairriona’s previous work has primarily examined health disparities in marginalized communities and environmental justice. At The Trace, Fairriona will view gun violence through the lens of public health, evaluating the latest research and interrogating new interventions to shootings.
  • Finally, Sunny Sone will serve as our new associate newsletter editor. Sunny was most recently a copy editor and digital producer at The Intercept, and previously worked as a digital and engagement editor at the Texas Observer. You’ll get to know them here and in The Weekly (which you can subscribe to here).

Data Point

$17 million — Grant funding now available to New Jersey law enforcement, via the American Rescue Plan, to acquire and expand technology to reduce gun violence and car thefts, the state’s Department of Law & Public Safety announced yesterday.