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Photo: Philadelphia DAO
Photo: Philadelphia DAO

Philadelphia’s latest approach to reduce homicides and gun violence

The city has implemented a new strategy that works to enhance relationships between the community and law enforcement, while improving accountability. 

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With state and local elected officials standing alongside him, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner announced the city’s new collaborative effort to reduce the rising number of gun-related homicides and violent crimes in the city. 

With its new Gun Crimes Strategies & Prevention Collaborative, assistant district attorneys, prosecutors and community liaison workers will be placed inside each of the six police divisions throughout the city.

The goal is to foster a stronger relationship between community members and law enforcement in each community, while holding those committing the most serious crimes most accountable. 

“The connection between building the community, and also enforcement, is absolutely crucial to any intelligent and modern approach to reducing gun violence,” Krasner said during a news conference Friday, adding that their work will be at the core of the Gun Crimes Strategies & Prevention Collaborative. 

On the same day, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw released the city's new Crime Prevention & Reduction Action Plan. The 37-page report outlines the current crime challenges the city is facing, goals to reduce the crime rate, the value of strategic collaboration in creating a renewed approach, as well an action plan. 

“This action plan … brings all of our law enforcement and non-law enforcement partners together, removes silos, and establishes a concerted flow of information for analysis to create the roadmap of how we will work together to focus on and reduce crime,” the report reads. 

The stay-at-home orders and shutdowns brought by the coronavirus in recent months has not slowed the rates of crime or gun violence in the city. 

As of June 27, 2020, Philadelphia has 193 homicide victims this year, which is a 20% increase from the same date in 2019. At this rate, it is likely that the city will surpass its year-end homicide victim count for the fourth consecutive year. 

Krasner noted that the traditional law enforcement techniques towards gun violence in the past have both diluted enforcement against serious crimes and also created more trauma for communities, which have driven a wedge between them and law enforcement officials. 

“The most important thing that we do is we build community at the same time as we are also focusing on enforcement,” he said. 

Moving forward, the idea is to make the message clear that decarceration for non-serious offenses improves society and prevention, which will simultaneously “save the necessary hammer of law enforcement for those who are killing and hurting other people.” 

Part of the effort includes seeking high bail for people who commit serious crimes, supporting gun violence victims and co-victims, and Philadelphia CARES (Crisis Assistance, Response, and Engagement for Survivors), a grant-funded initiative geared towards advocating for families of homicide victims.

The Gun Crimes Strategies & Prevention Collaborative is a similar collaborative that has been used in Chicago, which has seen an almost 20% decrease in murders and shootings over the last three years since its peak in 2016. 

Krasner hopes Philadelphia will see some of the same decrease in homicide and gun violence numbers as Chicago has seen. 

“We stand with victims of gun violence, we stand with law enforcement and their efforts to rein it in, and we stand with community building and prevention that are ultimately the surest long-term solution to all of this,” said Krasner. 

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