Philadelphia’s District Attorney is pushing back on the notion that violence is on the rise, despite the more than 500 people murdered so far this year — insisting that there is a gun violence crisis, but not “a crisis of violence” in the city.
“We don’t have a crisis of lawlessness,” he said.
During a testy exchange with reporters during his weekly gun crime update Monday, Larry Krasner pointed to the fact overall violent crime in the city is down about 3% compared to last year.
“As we report on a true crisis when it comes to gun violence in the United States, or also in Philadelphia, I think it’s important that we don’t let this become mushy and bleed that there is a big spike in crime,” he said. “There isn’t. There is not a big spike in crime — that is not true. There is also not a big spike in violent crime, either.”
According to the most recent police statistics, violent crimes, including rapes and aggravated assaults that do not involve guns, are down compared to this time last year by 11% and 7%, respectively. However, homicides are up nearly 13% and robberies involving guns are up close to 25%.
“It is actually striking that gun violence is so high,” Krasner said. “And yet, we don’t see violence as a general category that includes it going so high. We see it remaining at relatively normal levels, actually going down last year in many areas.”
Krasner said illegal weapons are proliferating on the streets.
“We have a crisis of gun violence and that’s what we need to go after,” he said.
“We are in heavy crisis mode,” said Bishop Darrell Robinson of Yesha Ministries, where the event was held in South Philadelphia. “For the last month, I have done too many funerals. It’s hurting, it’s painful, to see droves of young people come in crying, family members crying, mothers, fathers crying.”
Robinson called for everyone to work together to prevent more shootings.
“We’re not trying to break records on how much we can kill each other. We’ve got to do better, we’ve got to do better. And so, I say to our community, let’s seek to change the culture. Let us do as much as we can do to communicate across our pulpits that this is unacceptable behavior,” said Robinson.
During the weekly update, Krasner reported that the homicide number is up to 521, versus 462 at this time a year ago, an increase of close to 13%.
He wanted to stress that the city is targeting those who buy guns for other people to use in crimes, so-called straw purchases.
“It’s people who are able to buy guns legally purchasing those guns and then turning around and selling them to those who cannot buy them, to people who have felonies or who otherwise are not permitted,” Krasner said. “Simply put, they are very often selling them to criminals, because who else with a significant criminal record is so eager to get a hold of a gun?”
Krasner also announced the arrest of Tyrone Patterson, who is accused of selling three guns sold to convicted felons who could not legally buy guns.
Krasner promised prosecution for people who are caught selling guns bought legally that are in turn used for illegal purposes.
“Because what you are doing by being an arms merchant, what you are doing by selling weapons to people who are members of groups and gangs that are actively killing each other and are often accidentally killing bystanders, what you are doing is every bit as bad as what they are doing,” he said.
City Councilmember Mark Squilla talked about how some people “rent” illegal firearms, paying someone to use them for a weekend.
“They rent guns from people who purchase them, use them, and then bring them back. We have to stop these businesses in their tracks,” said Squilla.
State Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler also spoke out about the issue.
“As we continue to grapple with the mounting loss of life in our city, we must do everything we can and recommit ourselves to saving lives,” said Fiedler. She added, “I think that the work being done in our city is one important step in saving lives. But we know we must do much more.”
Saturdays just got more interesting.