Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner called on leaders from the city’s business, academic, and government sectors to collaborate for a $100 million investment in community organizations to help stem gun violence.
“I am calling on everyone in the community to come forward to hold hands to get it done and come up with that $100 million that we need to get something serious started in the city,” said the district attorney who is running for re-election.
The Philadelphia Police Department reported 64 homicides as of today, a 33% increase compared this time to last year. But at a press conference, the DA announced four more homicides.
“Those numbers are unacceptable,” said Krasner. “They are troubling to all of us, but most importantly there are real people who are reflected and real names that you’re not hearing that are behind those numbers.”
The DA also reported nine homicides last week, 16 non-fatal shootings in the city, and 120 cases opened involving either possession of guns or gun violence.
The trend seems to be a continuation of an especially violent 2020 in the city that resulted in 499 homicides — numbers not seen since the 1990s — and more than 2,200 shooting victims.
Krasner said the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is partly to blame for the uptick in city violence, and city leaders must step up and invest in a solution. He pointed to a void left behind by closures of swimming pools, recreation centers, schools, and job programs.
“What you are seeing with this spike in gun violence is exactly what happens when a pandemic strips away all of these important protective programs … that have been reducing violence in their own way for years,” said Krasner.
Krasner made his call at a press conference where Assistant District Attorney Mike Lee announced the formation of a new Anti-Discrimination Advisory Board that seeks to address racism in the office’s adult diversion programs. In these programs, people arrested for low-level offenses are diverted away from the criminal justice system and toward resources and assistance that address the root causes of their arrest.
“We want to make sure that, as we expand diversion programs and learn more about the people going through, we’re more thoughtful and reflective of where people go,” said Lee, who is also supervisor of the adult diversion unit. “Most importantly, we want community values to be at the forefront of this expansion and innovation.”
Between July 2015 and December 2020, the city reduced its jail population by more than 45%.
The formation comes almost a week after the MacArthur Foundation awarded the city nearly $2.3 million to continue efforts to rethink the local criminal justice system, safely reduce Philadelphia’s jail population, and eliminate racial inequities.
“We want to be anti-racist. We want to be anti-sexist. We want to be anti-classist,” said Lee.
WHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.
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