Philadelphia law enforcement officials and community leaders unveiled new collaborative strategies Friday to address the city’s rising tide of homicides and shootings while improving relationships with the neighborhoods most affected by gun violence.
District Attorney Larry Krasner announced that he had assigned prosecutors to work alongside investigators and community liaisons in each of the city’s six police divisions. The goal is to improve the rate of successful prosecutions and to foster better cooperation among his office, police, and neighborhood groups as the city’s homicide rate is on track to reach a 13-year high.
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw also highlighted the newly assigned assistant district attorneys and community members in a strategic policing plan released separately Friday, her first since she was appointed to her job last year.
In it, Outlaw announced several changes to her top command staff and outlined broad goals including increasing the department’s clearance rate — the percentage of cases considered “cleared” by arrest. Her plan calls for increasing the clearance rate to 65% for homicides and 30% for non-fatal shootings. That’s about 13 percentage points and 5 percentage points higher, respectively, than the rate in recent years.
Though Outlaw and Krasner delivered their separate announcements Friday with fanfare, neither offered much in the way of specifics on how their proposals would be funded or work in practice.
Both plans came as the city’s homicide count stood at 193 victims so far this year — a number 21% higher than this time last year and on track to become the highest the city has seen since 2007.
The police commissioner also pledged to rededicate the department to rebuilding bonds with minority communities — a move that comes after a month of protests against systemic racism that laid bare already strained relations between officers and some of the communities they are sworn to protect.
“By committing ourselves to the performance goals… we will achieve long-term sustainable neighborhood change together,” Outlaw said.
The commissioner’s plan came in the form of a 40-page document titled “Crime Prevention and Violence Reduction Action Plan.” Fine print in the report noted that no money has been allocated for the specific programs or initiatives mentioned.
The document outlined plans to assign staff to track and monitor the outcomes of shooting cases and to expand what the department calls “pinpoint zones” — specific blocks or neighborhoods targeted for more resources because cops consider them at high risk for crime.
She also listed among her goals to reestablish “a positive working relationship” between the police and the District Attorney’s Office, after years of strained relations between Krasner’s office and some of the rank-and-file officers.
Krasner, meanwhile, stood flanked by city and state lawmakers and anti-violence and community groups Friday at a splashy news conference outside of Siddiq’s Real Fruit Water Ice on South 60th Street in West Philadelphia.
He likened the new approach to assign prosecutors and community workers to specific police divisions to a similar tactic deployed in Chicago, which has seen a 20% reduction in homicides and shootings in the years since.
Philadelphia’s version would be heavily focused on crime prevention and community involvement, he said. As an example, he highlighted the work of the Crisis Assistance Response and Engagement program — a grant-funded effort by his office to support families affected by gun violence by pairing them with people who have lived through similar experiences.
“The connection between the building the community, and also enforcement, is absolutely crucial to any intelligent and modern approach to reducing gun violence,” Krasner said. “The work that these folks will be doing is at the core of the gun crime strategies and prevention collaborative.”
Elected officials and community leaders lauded the change and said they look forward to a more constructive working relationship with prosecutors and police.
“When we see on the news a murder occurring, it’s not just that one person that is shown in the news. It’s a rippling effect that goes throughout a whole family,” said Stanley Crawford, whose son was shot three times and died in West Philadelphia in 2018. Crawford went on to launch the Black Male Community Council, a group that has organized 200 men now deployed to improve conditions in three of the city’s most violent spots.
City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, who represents West Philadelphia, said the effects of any one particular shooting are felt even further.
“Shootings are traumatic events, not just for the victims and their families, but for neighbors and coworkers and classmates and for whole communities,” she said. “And in this time when we as a city and we as a country are confronting issues of racial justice and equity, gun violence has to be a top priority for every elected official, because it’s our communities of color that are suffering disproportionately from gun violence.”