Deeply troubled on the day after the funeral of 18-year-old Shakuwrah Muhammad, Philadelphia's top prosecutor made a decision.

It wasn't enough for him to imprison the killer of the young woman just graduated from Central High School, an innocent caught between two groups of shooters June 20 in West Oak Lane.

It wasn't enough for him to imprison the killers of the dozens of others across the city, District Attorney Seth Williams told himself. He had to find a better way to connect with people in the city's most crime-ridden neighborhoods, he thought, and help them "take back our streets."

So at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, he set off on a journey of discovery that should keep him stepping most weekend nights this summer. He began in West Philadelphia, in the neighborhood where he grew up, where he went to St. Carthage Catholic School, where he played in Cobbs Creek Park, where 11 classmates lost their homes in the MOVE bombing 25 years ago, where he still goes to church.

On this sweltering evening, he was joined by about 100 community organizers, police officers, politicians, church members, parents, and children for a stroll two miles down 60th Street, from Market Street to Washington Avenue.

Along the way, he heard worries about liquor sales, malfunctioning security cameras, and loitering teens. He shook youngsters' hands and urged them to excel in school. He greeted residents sitting on their stoops, wide-eyed at the eclectic throng.

"We're going to put you in the White House," one man yelled.

Williams smiled. "I'm just trying to keep 60th Street safe first," he answered. "How's that?"

"Right on," a woman hailed from a passing car, giving the group a thumbs-up.

Several police cars with flashing lights drove beside the group, with other officers on foot. Williams made it clear they were there to talk, not confront.

Saturday's walk was only the start. Williams, who took office in January, intends to take the three-hour treks - from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. - on as many Fridays and Saturdays as he can this summer, a season when violent crime tends to accelerate.

He plans to walk through the Badlands of West Kensington, through Olney, Germantown, and the Far Northeast. One night, he says, he'll visit 58th Street between Baltimore and Woodland Avenues, "one of deadliest corridors in the city."

"These are Philadelphians fighting every day to keep their city safer," he said of the group with him in West Philadelphia. "The least I can do is come out in the middle of the night to be with them."

He looked in particular for young men.

"I can try to talk to them in ways that former D.A.s couldn't, because I look like a lot of the kids most likely to be shot and most likely to be shooting," said Williams, 43, the city's first African American district attorney.

He introduced Will Little, a convicted murderer who has devoted the last decade to helping young people choose the right path. A high-school dropout involved in drugs and hustling, Little was 19 when he killed a man in a shoot-out. He spent his 20s behind bars.

During 10 years in jail, he earned his GED and changed his attitude. "I was once part of the problem," Little said. "Now, I'm part of the solution."

Community organizers praised Williams' effort.

"He's trying to come into the community, which is a part of his life, where he grew up, to show the people that he's here for the good things and the bad things," said Julia Chinn, president of the Concerned Block Captains of West and Southwest Philadelphia.

Some took the opportunity to express concerns. Vonda Bowser, who recently joined the anti-violence group Mothers in Charge, spent a moment in stride with Williams.

Her son, Linwood III, was shot to death May 2 on 28th Street near Jefferson Street. The security cameras at the intersection weren't working, she said.

"We understand the cameras had been out for months," said Bowser, who has complained to police, city councilmen, the NAACP, and others. "We have yet to find out why."

Williams said he would look into the matter. He had staff members along to take notes and phone numbers.

According to the Police Department, the cameras were not fully connected at the time of the homicide.

Another person complained about a drug house in the neighborhood. Williams said the city's Public Nuisance Task Force could help.

Others complained about businesses that allowed loitering.

"Don't go after young people who hang in them. Go after the businesses that let them hang in them," said Tyrone Sims, president of Concerned Men of Cobbs Creek.

Williams said he hoped to open branch offices in communities around the city, where Town Watch groups can get training and victims of crime can ask questions.

"We have to break down the barrier that exists between the D.A.'s Office and the community," Williams said.

When Williams grew up in the 700 block of South 63d Street, the neighborhood was less violent. The corridor he patrolled Saturday spans the 18th and 19th Police Districts, which in the last year had 36 murders, 108 rapes, and 1,150 aggravated assaults.

Williams remembers the time his mother and his aunt began carrying big sticks on walks in the park. They were afraid children would rob them.

"It was one of the reasons I went into law school and wanted to be a prosecutor," he said. "I wanted to be on the side of victims of crime."

He has his work cut out for him.

While he walked the neighborhood, shootings continued in other parts of the city. A 20-year-old was shot in an arm on Susquehanna Street. Another 20-year-old was shot in a leg on Bridge Street. At 3 a.m., soon after he finished, a shooting occurred in Bustleton.

"I have two BlackBerries that go off - one of them with nothing but the shootings, the stabbings," Williams said. "People in the city are desperate for change."

Contact staff writer Susan Snyder at 215-854-4693 or