Dangerous drugs and violent crime are plaguing the state of Pennsylvania. On average, 14 Pennsylvanians die daily from drug overdoses, and Philadelphia is experiencing the highest murder rate in the city’s history.
I recently visited Kensington, the Philadelphia neighborhood once famous for Rocky but now known as the East Coast’s largest open-air drug market. People struggling with addiction, some with needles hanging from their bodies, surrounded me. As a doctor, I have treated people battling addiction and seen the recovery process. These are human beings who desperately need support from their communities and leaders, yet their Democratic leaders largely ignore them.
At a roundtable discussion with community members in Germantown, another Philadelphia neighborhood, I heard numerous stories of individuals losing loved ones to violent crime. Roundtable participants told me this area was once a prosperous and safe place to work, live and raise a family. Now, many residents are afraid to walk through the streets or send their children to school.
The growing drug and violent crime crisis in Philadelphia — our nation’s capital before it relocated to Washington, D.C. — would only get worse under the policy proposals set forth by progressive leaders like Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, my opponent for the U.S. Senate.
Fetterman has made clear his support for Oregon’s measure 110, which decriminalized drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. This flawed measure did not create a safety net to stop addiction, as promised. After Measure 110, Oregon had a 41% increase in drug overdose deaths. Over 16,000 people in Oregon have accessed health centers since the measure passed, but less than 1% of drug users entered treatment. A similar law if passed in Pennsylvania would not help users in Kensington; it would enable them.
Measure 110 has also been linked to a massive increase in violent crime. Portland’s murders increased by over 50% from 2020 to 2021. A similar increase in homicides in Philadelphia would likely mean over 800 murders a year in the city.
Fetterman not only supports legislation like Oregon’s Measure 110, but drug legalization and decriminalization are also among his top priorities. In an interview with The Nation in 2015, Fetterman was asked: “What are some key issues you’re focused on?” His answer: “I’m pro-legalizing marijuana, but I go even further than some of my colleagues because I’m for decriminalizing across the board.” In 2018, Fetterman noted the topic of legalizing heroin arose when he met with party officials in Washington.
This desire to decriminalize drugs is just one facet of Fetterman’s extensive soft-on-crime agenda. Since first taking office as lieutenant governor in 2019, Fetterman has at times advocated on behalf of violent criminals, even at the expense of law-abiding citizens.
While leading the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, Fetterman recommended the release of 46 criminals serving life sentences, including a man who was convicted of first-degree murder after killing another man with garden shears. Fetterman even cast the only vote to pardon a man convicted of murdering an older woman with scissors.
While Fetterman has backed the idea that releasing one-third of all prisoners would “not make anyone less safe,” a report released by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections on Aug. 31 shows that over 60% of prisoners released from the corrections system are re-arrested or re-enter jail. Despite these findings, Fetterman wants to “get as many folks out” of prison as possible.
Time and time again, Fetterman has made it clear that he would prioritize criminals over the safety of Pennsylvanians. The crisis ravaging vulnerable communities like Kensington results from ineffective drug policies pushed by elected officials who care more about caring than fixing. These policies are part of a larger failed social experiment tested on our communities that has only seen more homicides, increased overdose deaths and silence from those who implemented these policies.
Our timeframe to fix these problems is narrowing, and we cannot afford to send Fetterman to the Senate to spread his failed policies to the rest of our fragile state.
As your next U.S. senator, I will be a strong advocate for providing resources and funding for treatment centers and hiring more treatment professionals. I will also fight for our law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day to make our communities safer. Lastly, I will continue outgoing Sen. Pat Toomey’s work on providing relief for victims of crime through funding already available through the Crime Victims Fund.