I’ve been pretty critical of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who’s light-on-crime approach has led to far fewer felony prosecutions since he’s taken office, even as the city’s violent crime has soared to near-record highs. On Monday, however, the prosecutor actually put forward a good idea when discussing the number of shootings in Philly that took place over the weekend.
Later in the press conference, Krasner was asked about the impact those shootings, particularly the ones involving children, have on him.
“I think everybody in Philadelphia is impacted. I’m a Philadelphia, I think we’re all impacted by the injustice of children suffering wounds. Children who have done nothing to deserve any of it. Being placed in harm’s way,” Krasner said, again pausing to seemingly gather his emotions. “It is an indictment of where our society has gotten, the policies that we have pursued, the way we have moved forward.”
The district attorney then turned his attention toward city leadership for ‘steps’ he says they have not taken.
“This city, for more than two-and-a-half years, has not been listening when this office said over and over and over ‘forensics, forensics,'” Krasner said. “There are things that can be done with DNA right now that could have been done a year ago, two years ago, with DNA – and can be done right now there are things that should’ve, could’ve been done with cellular telephone technology that help to solve shootings.
Krasner points out that, even in good years, the Philadelphia police are only able to make arrests in about 20% of shootings. Even when there are eyewitnesses, getting them to cooperate with police is a challenge; either they’re too afraid of retaliation from the suspect or their own code precludes them from bringing law enforcement into an issue that they believe is best left to the streets to resolve.
I’ve previously suggested bolstering spending on witness protection programs, but Krasner’s idea makes sense too. Get enough physical evidence, and eyewitness testimony (or the lack thereof) may not matter as much. The key is ensuring that there’s swift and certain consequences for using a gun in the commission of a crime in Philadelphia, and if criminals are getting away with shooting someone 80% of the time, it’s no wonder that they’re feeling particularly emboldened at the moment.
“We are talking about the DA asking for money for the Philadelphia police to have better forensics so they are able to solve more cases, so they have tools they need.
Krasner says that solve rate went down during the pandemic and the rate for solving homicides ‘lurks below 50%’ for most of the pandemic.
“If this city is not going to lead on what can be done in terms of enforcement, then we’re just going to have to keep talking about it. We’re going to have to keep banging this drum until it breaks. We need real resources for cutting-edge forensics,” he added.
Given the fact that Democrats are usually banging the drum for gun control, I’m pleasantly surprised to see his attempt to point to concrete steps that can be taken to improve arrest rates. Of course, that doesn’t address the issue of declining prosecutions from his own office, and while I’m fine with Krasner’s soft touch when it comes to prosecuting people caught carrying guns without a license (which I don’t believe should be a crime to begin with), the fact is that Krasner’s critics have plenty of evidence that points to the prosecutor going soft on violent offenders as well as those arrested on mere possessory offenses. Krasner may have a valid point about better forensics helping to solve crimes, but that doesn’t absolve him of his own responsibility to prosecute violent suspects to the fullest extent of the law.