Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Monday that his office has charged 65 people over the last six months with carrying guns and selling drugs in West Philadelphia as part of a new initiative with city police.
At a news conference in the neighborhood, Shapiro cast the effort as an example of how law enforcement agencies can work together to address the city’s violence crisis. Philadelphia is on pace to record more homicides in 2021 than in any other year in its history; 372 people have already been slain this year, by far the highest year-to-date total in decades.
“This is an important part of making a difference,” said Shapiro, flanked by residents and officials including Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw and State Sen. Anthony Williams. “Talking, finger-pointing — that ain’t enough, and that’s not going to get the job done.”
The news conference was spare on details about those arrested. Shapiro did not name any defendants or specify what charges any were facing.
He said those taken into custody were “all part of a violent enterprise,” but when asked to provide details on how the arrests were connected, said: “This is not one broad unit. Some of them were working together, some weren’t.” He said suspects were identified because state prosecutors and city police “shared intelligence. We went to the hot spots. And we’re getting results.”
Shapiro’s office has conducted similar initiatives in Kensington in the past targeting drug crews.
Those arrested in West Philadelphia face charges ranging from conspiracy to illegal gun possession and drug violations, his office said Monday. Beyond the arrests, a news release said investigators seized 41 guns and “more than 4,000 doses of narcotics.”
Outside of the partnership with the Attorney General’s Office, Philadelphia Police have been making arrests for illegal guns at a record pace in 2021. A data website maintained by the District Attorney’s Office said more than 1,600 people have been charged with illegal firearms possession this year.
Shapiro’s announcement came on the same day that former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain announced he would seek the Republican nomination in Pennsylvania’s 2022 gubernatorial race — a contest Shapiro is widely expected to join at some point as a Democrat.
Shapiro shrugged off mention of McSwain at his news conference, saying: “I’m focused on the important work that needs to happen right here in this community.”
Williams, a fellow Democrat, praised Shapiro for working with law enforcement and legislators to respond to a violence epidemic disproportionately impacting residents in Black and brown communities, saying: “I want to make sure there’s nothing missed in terms of how excited we are about what’s being done.”