Philly D.A. Insists City Doesn't Have "Crime Crisis"

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Philadelphia will end this year with the most murders in city history, but the city’s far-Left District Attorney is downplaying the record-high homicide rate. Larry Krasner says that while homicides are spiking, the city is still a very safe place.

“We don’t have a crisis of lawlessness, we don’t have a crisis of crime, we don’t have a crisis of violence,” the district attorney told reporters at a Monday press conference. “It’s important that we don’t let this become mushy and bleed into the notion that there is some kind of big spike in crime. There isn’t. There is not a big spike in crime. … There is not a big spike in violent crime. Neither one of these things is true.”

Despite the fact that gun violence has gone “way up,” other indicators, “which usually go up and down with gun violence,” are staying “relatively flat,” Krasner said.

Is Krasner right? Well, it depends on what statistics you’re looking at. It’s true that aggravated assaults without a firearm are down by 3% compared to last year, aggravated assaults with a firearm are up 54%. Robberies without firearms are down 33%, but robberies with a firearm have increased by 13%. Reported rapes and residential burglaries have also decreased from last year, while non-residential burglaries are up by 15%.

The number that most residents are rightfully going to focus on, however, is the number of homicides, and with Philadelphia already exceeding its previous record of 500 murders recorded in the early 1990s, Krasner’s downplaying the crime wave isn’t sitting well, even among his fellow Democrats.

In an op-ed article published by The Inquirer late Tuesday, former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter called Krasner’s statements “some of the worst, most ignorant, and most insulting comments I have ever heard spoken by an elected official.”

Nutter added: “It takes a certain audacity of ignorance and white privilege to say that right now. … I have to wonder what kind of messed-up world of white wokeness Krasner is living in to have so little regard for human lives lost, many of them Black and brown, while he advances his own national profile as a progressive district attorney.”

I hate to break it to Nutter, but Krasner’s ideology is shared by folks who aren’t lily white like himself. In Chicago, Cook County prosecutor Kim Foxx has also been criticized by Mayor Lori Lightfoot over her soft-on-crime approach, as has St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner. The issue here isn’t the color of a prosecutor’s skin, but their mindset on ensuring consequences for violent criminals.

Darnetta Arce, executive director of the Brewerytown and Sharswood civic association in North Philadelphia, was also critical.

“People get carjacked at the gas station,” Arce said in an interview Tuesday. “We have people getting robbed as they walk down the street. We have people getting shot. So, no, it’s not safe in our community right now.”

With sunset coming early, Arce added, some folks won’t leave their homes, within the Police 22nd District, to attend the association’s evening meetings. “Bullets don’t have names on them,” she said. “In some of these shootings, people are getting killed who are not the target person.”

I don’t think that many people besides Krasner would disagree that violent crime in Philadelphia has gotten much worse over the past two years, but you’ll find plenty of arguments about why that’s the case. Some folks are still trying to claim that the surge in gun sales is responsible, though research suggests that’s not the case. Others blame the rise in violent crime on a pullback on the part of police.

“What would cause an increase in these particular gun homicides and their cousin, gun violence, as compared to everything else?” Paul Cassell, a law professor and crime specialist at the University of Utah, asked Tuesday. “The answer has to do with proactive policing, vehicle stops, pedestrian stops. Those are activities uniquely targeted to reduce gun violence.”

Cassell, the author of an influential study on the homicide spike in Philadelphia and several other cities, and others point to the deaths in police custody of men in Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo., followed by the killing of Floyd, and subsequent protests. They say this all has prompted a kind of police pullback.

In Philadelphia, police statistics show, stops by police have fallen dramatically for years now, with the drop-off accelerating under COVID-19.

In 2017, for example, police stopped 98,000 pedestrians. This year they are on track to stop 14,000. Officers pulled over 280,000 cars and trucks in 2017. This year, they are on a pace to stop 134,000.

Interestingly, while Philadelphia police are making fewer stops, they’re recovering more guns.. or at least that’s what they’re reporting. Given the new investigation into “discrepancies” surrounding gun arrests by more than a dozen Philadelphia police officers, I’m not sure we know exactly how many firearms have been recovered, and how much padding of the crime stats is going on.

What I do know is that legal gun owners and concealed carry holders aren’t the individuals responsible for the vast majority of homicides and shootings in Philadelphia, and the solutions aren’t going to come by imposing new restrictions on the gun owners who aren’t committing crimes. But while Democrats like Krasner and Michael Nutter may clash over prosecution strategies, they’re on the same page when it comes to their love of gun control, and that’s bad news for all those hoping to see the rising tide of violence recede in the near future.