Elorza calls for end to gun violence as Providence records most homicides since 2009

Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence has seen a significant uptick in violence over the past year, and Mayor Jorge Elorza tells 12 News he’s committed to putting an end to it.

Earlier this week, Providence recorded its 21st homicide of the year, which is the most the city has seen in more than a decade.

The next highest number of homicides was recorded in 2009, when 25 people were killed, according to data compiled by the Rhode Island State Police.

“There’s an awful lot of anger out there in society,” Elorza said. “It just feels like we live in a very divisive world where we are at each other’s throats all the time and people are on their last fuse.”

Elorza said everyone is fatigued from the pandemic, which is only exacerbating the situation.

When asked what needs to happen to prevent the city’s 22nd homicide, he said there’s no easy answer.

“A lot needs to happen,” Elorza said. “This is something that needs to be addressed from every single angle.”

Elorza said the city is continuing to do its part to prevent violence, from community outreach and increased patrols to providing more opportunities for youths.

But Elorza said the city can’t do it alone.

“We need other folks to step up and do their part as well,” he said. “The firepower that’s out there — both the amount of guns, and these semiautomatic weapons where folks let out a dozens of shots in a matter of seconds — that’s new.”

“We’ve got to get these guns off the streets,” he continued. “That takes state action, that takes federal action, and that is far beyond what just cities can do.”

Gov. Dan McKee signed two gun-related bills into law earlier this year, one of which aims to keep firearms out of the hands of people who cannot legally own them.

“It makes sense to create laws that keep guns out of the hands of people who cannot and should not possess one,” McKee said during the bill-signing back in July.

Elorza also said social media is adding fuel to the fire.

“We’re seeing that a lot of these ‘gang beefs,’ they originate on social media,” Elorza said.

Facebook has been under fire ever since Frances Haugen, a data scientist who used to work for the company, came forward and claimed the social media platform was consciously spreading misinformation through its algorithm.

“Facebook, over and over again, has shown it chooses profit over safety,” Haugen said during a recent interview on “60 Minutes.”

“No one at Facebook is malevolent, but the incentives are misaligned, right? Like, Facebook makes more money when you consume more content,” she explained. “People enjoy engaging with things that elicit an emotional reaction, and the more anger that they get exposed to, the more they interact and the more they consume.”

Elorza believes the impacts of that algorithm are being felt in cities across the country, including Providence.

“We used to say that people act out online in a way that they would never act out in person, and I think that was true maybe a couple of years ago, but what we’re seeing now is that the virtual world is bleeding into the real world and what they see online … it’s spilling over into our streets,” he said.

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