Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner wants his office laser-focused on fighting the city’s gun violence epidemic as homicides spike to a rate unseen for at least six decades.
“We should focus on shootings when the crisis is shootings,” Krasner said at a weekly violence briefing held Monday. “I don’t think that’s complicated.”
Three weeks into the new year, Philadelphia has seen 38 killings, two more than this time a year ago.
“This is a slight increase from terrible to terrible,” Krasner said. “That’s where we are with homicides. This is truly a terrible crisis that we are suffering through.”
The city ended 2021 with a record of 559 homicides — a loss larger than any year since 1960, when city leaders began tracking killings. Krasner reported 145 gun violence incidents, and 105 arrests were made by law enforcement in the week ending Jan. 21
The DA fielded questions about people shooting back at perpetrators— relevant as the city sees a spate of attempted crimes end in gunfights, including a recent attempted carjacking that ended with a 60-year-old retired postal worker firing at a 16-year-old gunman. The grandfather who shot back was licensed to carry a gun.
“There is a lawful place for people to carry a firearm under proper circumstances and in the right way. And there are rare circumstances, but circumstances where it is legal for people to use that firearm,” Krasner said.
Krasner said that he would like to see fewer firearms on the city streets and will have no tolerance for guns that are illegally obtained and used.
The DA also spoke about how he is prioritizing more serious crimes over so-called quality of life issues.
“When I came into office, there’s more than a thousand people being prosecuted a year for possession of marijuana,” said Krasner, who called it a waste of resources. “We were spending a ton of time and money prosecuting prostitutes,” something he has also ceased doing.
In addition to prosecuting shootings, the DA continues to prioritize illegal gun possession, sexual assaults,domestic violence and “other crimes that pose a threat to public safety.”
Dustin Slaughter, Krasner’s spokesperson, said that the office no longer considered illegal dumping a priority for prosecution. He tied that change to a decline in arrests and the fact that the courts remain mired in delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and only able to hold four jury trials a week versus 10 in a pre-pandemic week, according to a court source.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the number of homicides so far in 2022.