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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Neighbors in West Philadelphia are frustrated over the gun violence plaguing their streets, and they are banding together to try and fix it. During a Wednesday night meeting at the Cookman Beloved Community Baptist Church, it became apparent the residents needed to step forward.

“We are the ones we are waiting for,” Saj Purple Blackwell, co-founder of the Blackwell Culture Alliance, said. “We do not have to wait for someone to do it for us.”

Blackwell’s group is creating a community watch team to hopefully keep an eye on the streets. “We believe boots on the ground is how you make a difference. Presence is how you make a difference,” she said.

It is a difference that long needed to be made.

City leaders recently called out Mayor Jim Kenney over his reluctance to declare an emergency in Philadelphia over the gun violence. The city currently has a homicide rate 30% higher than last year’s. Kenney declined the declaration, saying the city government is doing enough.

In West Philadelphia, however, the residents are taking it into their own hands.

“We are actually training our neighbors to walk our streets,” Blackwell said. “No longer sit around and watch things happen.”

Community support specialist Tara Smith tells CBS3 there are simple things citizens can do to ward off criminals.

“We aren’t asking anyone to chase anyone down,” Smith said. “We just want you to be more observant.”

It’s a beginning, but it’s not the end.

“We can pray. We can hope and wish it stops, but it starts with us,” Sameera Peterson said.

SOURCE: https://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2021/08/05/west-phialdelphia-gun-violence-blackwell-culture-alliance/