After a recent rash of shootings, Delaware County officials said Wednesday they would pay the Pennsylvania State Police at least $100,000 to help patrol impoverished Chester City, which suffered major police staff cuts last year.
District Attorney John J. Whelan said he sought the help and worked out terms under which the county would cover most of the cost of using troopers, who are expected to help patrol Chester after their normal shifts end.
Whelan said the money would come in part from casino revenues and the District Attorney's Office.
The last time the county asked troopers to assist in Chester, in 2014, Whelan raised money from local businesses to pay for the overtime, he said.
No arrests have been made in 10 homicides since January, and seven people were shot in three locations over the weekend.
Dubbing the initiative "Operation Safe Streets," Whelan announced his office additionally would finance $2,500 rewards for people with information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone found possessing illegal guns.
"We're only a few months into 2017," Whelan said during a news conference at a church parking lot near 22nd Street and Edgmont Avenue, "and already 46 people in the city of Chester have been shot."
He was joined by Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland, County Councilman Dave White, and about a dozen officials from local, state, and federal government and law enforcement.
State police will begin patrolling high-crime neighborhoods in the next few days, Whelan said, and assist at least through the fall. Whelan said he planned to solicit donations from the private sector to add to the $100,000 committed by the City Council and his office.
The arrangement comes as Democratic Gov. Wolf has made addressing the financially strained condition of the state police part of his proposed $32.3 billion budget proposal this year.
Because so many towns have expanded their reliance on the troopers, as costs of running their departments have skyrocketed, Wolf announced he was seeking a $25-per-person tax on towns that use the state police for full-time policing.
The state police budget has ballooned in the last decade from $850 million to $1.25 billion, records show.
Chester, a former industrial hub, lost a quarter of its police, including veterans, to cost-cutting retirements and resignations last year, under pressure from state overseers.
The city has been under state financial recovery oversight, through a program known as Act 47, since 1995. Its economy remains anemic. Its 34.6 percent poverty rate is among the highest in Pennsylvania, and officials continue to struggle to provide minimal services.
In police overtime costs alone, the city paid more than $2.7 million in 2015 -- a 25 percent increase over the prior year.
Chester has had the nation's highest per-capita homicide rate, and police have closed only about one-third of the city's 323 slayings since 2000, among the lowest rates in the country. In February, Kirkland said the city doubled a reward pot to lure reluctant witnesses. But he said Wednesday that the $10,000 incentive had not borne fruit.
The district attorney said the $2,500 reward -- a pilot program -- would work in conjunction with a recently formed illegal gun task force being run out of his office, with help from an on-site agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
"We are going after illegal guns," Whelan said.
White said he hoped the county assistance would improve life for people besieged by violence in Delaware County's only city.
"We know many residents in the city are forced to sleep in their basements," White said.
Indeed, on Sunday a stray bullet from the street found its way into a woman's home and struck her in the back, said Otis Blair, the police commissioner.