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Officials to address 'astronomical' violence in Chester

“Operation City Surge” will double the number of officers on the streets.

PER CAPITA, Chester marked four times as many slayings as Philadelphia last year. This year, it's on track to see six times as many.

As U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger said, Chester's crime stats are "astronomical."

Even as law-enforcement officials from across the region gathered at the Delaware County Courthouse in Media yesterday to announce "Operation City Surge," a plan to flood Chester's streets with additional manpower to address the growing violence, a man was shot in Chester, at 21st Street near Edgmont Avenue, about 1:30 p.m. He was not expected to survive.

Delaware County's only city - which has just 34,000 residents - already has 11 homicides this year. That's double the homicide tally in Chester at this time in 2013, a year when the city ended with 23 slayings and 100 people shot, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan said.

"The violence in the city of Chester has been on our radar for quite some time," Memeger said. "The numbers are astronomical and they're unacceptable."

"Operation City Surge," led by Chester Mayor John Linder, is a cooperative effort to stem the flood of violence and illegal weapons in the city.

Whelan said the initiative began early yesterday with a warrant sweep that netted 10 violent fugitives. It will continue with State Police and SEPTA police joining with Chester cops to double the number of officers who patrol the city's streets and transit system.

Chester will also partner with the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the U.S. Marshals and Delaware County Probation and Parole, Whelan said.

Officials plan to work with business owners and citizens to add surveillance cameras and they will schedule meetings with gun dealers to talk about how to prevent straw purchases, Whelan said.

The city has received a $100,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to purchase a new ballistics microscope to help solve gun cases. The one the department uses now is 40 years old.

According to Whelan, this is the largest-ever comprehensive plan to target violence in Chester, which, he said, has reached "epidemic proportions."

Just last week, Dino Dizdarevic, 25, a Kentucky native who was living in Philadelphia, was found beaten to death in a Chester alleyway. His slaying, which was the city's 11th, remains unsolved.

Linder stressed that he has not issued a state of emergency in the city but he said that everyone should feel a sense of urgency anyway.

"The last time we had a state of emergency we had a person shot the day of and the day it ended," he said. "Any time someone gets shot in our city, that's a state of emergency."