Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said his office is quickly depleting its already limited funding to relocate crime victims and witnesses as the city’s gun violence crisis persists.
About 50% more people have requested help from the District Attorney’s Office to move this year compared with last year, a trend that Krasner said is straining the office’s resources. For example, he said, the office spent $110,000 on relocation in July and August — and it’s only allocated $260,000 for the year.
“It is clear that we are going to exhaust the city’s funds,” Krasner said Monday during a news conference.
Witness intimidation has long been a problem in Philadelphia, particularly in cases of violent crime that can crumble when a victim or witness fails to appear in court. For years, prosecutors have complained they don’t have enough funding to relocate everyone who cooperates with investigators and lives in fear of retaliation.
The District Attorney’s Office, which has a $40 million annual budget, pulls from two funding sources to relocate victims and witnesses who need help. In addition to the funding set aside by the city, the state Attorney General’s Office disburses about $1.2 million per year to cover relocation services statewide.
Krasner said a single relocation costs about $30,000 on average, and the majority of requests to move are related to the most violent cases — like homicides, shootings, and rapes — and cases involving children.
He said the surge in gun violence since the start of the pandemic may be driving an uptick in requests to relocate, though he said that last year — one of the most violent years on record — the office used only about $150,000 of the city’s $260,000 allocation.
Krasner’s plea for funding came as gun violence in the city continued at an unprecedented pace. Six people were fatally shot on Saturday and Sunday, bringing the total number of homicides in the city so far this year to 384. That’s a 16% increase over the same point last year, and more than the 356 who were killed in all of 2019. The majority were killed by gunfire.
All the shooting deaths on Saturday and Sunday took place in North Philadelphia. Just before 6 a.m. on Saturday, police responded to the 3800 block of Old York Road and found a man shot in the chest. The 33-year-old, identified as Jasmond Welcome, of Chester, was taken to Temple University Hospital, where he died.
Less than seven hours later, a 54-year-old man was shot multiple times on the 2200 block of West Cambria Street and died of his wounds. Authorities identified the man as James Steele, of Hunting Park.
On Saturday night, three people were shot, two of them fatally, inside a deli on the 2600 block of North 12th Street. James Wilkerson, 30, of the 2600 block of North Jessup Street, was shot multiple times and taken to Temple Hospital, where he died. The second victim, who was shot in the armpit, was identified as 23-year-old Raaji Crosland, 23, of the 2600 block of North 12th Street. He was also taken to Temple, where he died.
A 29-year-old shot twice in the leg, twice in the shoulder, and once in the shin was hospitalized in critical condition. Police said a gun was recovered from the scene.
Less than an hour later, a 30-year-old was on a porch on the 2500 block of West Montgomery Avenue when he was shot multiple times in the torso, police said. The victim, identified as Saleem Shariff Pointer, lived on the block, according to investigators.
And on Sunday morning, just past 11 a.m., police responded to the 2000 block of West Cambria Street and found a 22-year-old shot multiple times in the head and torso. The victim, identified as Glen Parker of the 3100 block of North 25th Street, was taken to Temple Hospital and pronounced dead.
Police said no one was arrested in connection with the homicides, and the investigations are ongoing.