PlayStreets is back in Philadelphia, with safety training in place

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“Scream, get out, hide.”

It’s the active shooter’s equivalent of “stop, drop and roll,” and it’s crucial knowledge for the team of teenagers running Philadelphia’s “PlayStreets” program this summer. They started work this Monday, hoping to create a safe and educational environment despite the city ongoing gun violence crisis and a Fourth of July weekend disrupted by gunfire.

The city’s parks and recreation department and nonprofit Fabulous Youth Philly are employing 45 “game captains” this summer to post on designated streets four days a week, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The streets are closed to traffic so that staff can organize educational and fitness programs as well as the distribution of meals. It is an effort to prevent “summer slide”or loss of learning outcomes during school vacations which can aggravate racial and economic problems success gap.

The Play Streets Play Captains host a scotch hop party on Otter Street in West Philadelphia on the first day of the program, July 11, 2022. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

But delivering the service now requires a comprehensive set of gunfire safety plans, said Kevin Veltri, operations manager for Fab Youth Philly.

“Everyone is trained to get out of this area,” he said. “Everyone will get together, check in, make sure everyone is there, and then the checkout is basically making sure everyone has a safe plan to get home.”

A close-up shot over someone's shoulder of a card they are holding in their hands.
Before going to their street, game captains check in with each other. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Program staff are in regular contact with the Philadelphia Police Department about potentially dangerous activity near PlayStreets, he said, and some streets were removed from the program because they were not easily accessible by case of emergency. Veltri spoke to businesses in areas around PlayStreets to ensure staff and attendees have a place to hide in the event of violence.

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Richard V. Johnson