If you have “krasnerbars” on your home right now, take my suggestion and leave them on your house. The election of defense attorney Larry Krasner as the District Attorney of Philadelphia will, as Republicans see it, not come without consequences. That primary consequence is what happens to the city’s crime rate. Their concerns aren’t unfounded.
As it stands now, murders are up 15% in the city since 2016 and they have been on a steady climb over the last four years.
Installing a super-weak DA into the mix won’t improve this trend…
When Michael Nutter first became mayor, the murder wave during the summer of 2006 had gripped the city’s attention and crowded out nearly all other topics. During that period Philadelphia’s homicide rate was close to topping 400 homicides. Getting below 300 was considered a record achievement and a success story under Nutter and the nationally-recognized work of PPD Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who amassed a following of his own including rumors of his possibility of being elevated to mayor. That was also the same era that brought the controversial policy of Stop-N-Frisk, which was a precursor that lead the public to rejecting the police and law enforcement in this city’s election.
While candidate Beth Grossman had championed victims rights in her campaign, Krasner campaigned on civil rights of perpetrators and suspects. Philadelphians who distrust or hate the police voted in overwhelming numbers to send Larry Krasner to the District Attorney’s Office and send a message that they do not care for law enforcement and want to encounter less of it in their lives.
Krasner campaigned with a number of goals and promises in mind. Some of those goals that Krasner has could have an impact on the level of crime Philadelphia experiences.
For instance, Krasner has promised that the District Attorney’s Office will reduce the rate at which it will accept case files from the Philadelphia Police Department. Under former DA Seth Williams, he reformed the office by centralizing all new criminal cases that get filed to the New Filing Unit at the DA’s Office. This centralization makes it a bit faster for the DA to set policy with how it deals with criminal case intakes.
Before Williams, criminal cases were prepared by police detectives in the four police regions as a suspect was awaiting a date for municipal court. Under Williams and his centralization this gave the DA far greater say in which cases the court would get and stopped any instances of cases that a police detective files being withdrawn later by the DA’s office. This practice also removed cases the DA was rejecting from public view as there was no longer a trace of it in the courts. This feature became an issue several times as Seth Williams found himself accused of playing prosecutorial discretion by dropping criminal charges against individuals without the public learning of it.
If Krasner carries his reform out it becomes an interesting question over what cases Krasner will accept. At some point he will have to communicate his intentions to the police detectives who prepare the files the DA gets; and once he gives those instructions it will be minutes before the public learns of what Krasner will not prosecute any longer, since the police have no intention to keep Krasner’s secrets for him, nor should they.
For instance, if the evidence in a case only contains low-resolution security camera video to positively ID a suspect, Krasner might elect to reject any cases that only contain that and don’t have eyewitness testimony and elect to not bring those to a jury. He could reject any cases where marijuana possession was the leading cause for a search that led to something far more serious, like gun charges.
Groups that backed Krasner have sent him laundry lists of types of cases they no longer want to see prosecuted, and that is also a factor.
Sorry anti-gun folks, Krasner doesn’t believe gun charges are a big deal. Nearly all defense attorneys will tell you that you should stop getting excited or worried over someone who is being charged with gun violations. For many years the District Attorney’s Office have taken plea deals and wiped away the consequences of illegally carrying a firearm by agreeing to take a deal on the primary reason why a suspect was arrested. Beth Grossman had promised to consider gun violations as an aggravating factor in a crime and not a bargaining chip to secure a plea. Since we have a defense attorney as our DA now, no one at Ceasefire PA will be particularly happy with Krasner’s philosophy (during the Democratic primary Ceasefire PA endorsed Richard Negrín, who served on their board).
Krasner is anticipated to go the opposite direction here and will likely end up being the most lenient DA for gun crimes in the country with lighter sentencing for repeat firearms violators when repeat offenders had better chances of being sent upstate. This position, probably more than anything, will be the most significant factor on what happens to Philadelphia’s future crime rate.
The largest indicator that Krasner feels this way was during a televised debate on 6ABC last Sunday for Inside Story, where Grossman and Krasner were both asked the same questions about gun violence. Krasner spent the entire answer time complaining about gun stores and promising to bring enforcement action against FFL dealers of firearms and avoided speaking about individuals who are caught breaking Pennsylvania’s gun laws.
But FFL dealers are regulated by the Commonwealth from the PA Attorney General’s Office and not the DA and there is little if any action the Philadelphia District Attorney can undertake in regards to gun stores in the city (i.e. the DA can’t “shake down” a gun store and demand all its records without any cause) as it requires the coordination of the Philadelphia Police Department, the state police and the ATF. While Krasner points fingers at gun stores, no one who owns and operates a licensed gun store and complies with ATF rules has anything to worry about from Larry Krasner. In order words, Krasner delivers answers the anti-gun voters want to hear, without having to divulge his disdain for gun charges against suspects themselves.
So, What Next?
Baltimore is Philadelphia’s true sister city. It is also one place to examine for what it’s like to have a Krasner type of prosecutor as the head of local law enforcement. Baltimore’s crime rate is setting unwanted records, and the social disorder and turmoil from the killing of Freddie Gray has not healed.
If you live in the 15th Police District, where gun arrests and gun crimes have skyrocketed and heroin dealers have been moving in, if you haven’t thought about your home/life situation I would suggest you start looking more carefully at it. Krasner’s base of support and his attention will not include Northeast Philadelphia and its increasing rates of crime honestly do not affect his chances of election or even re-election later down the line. Having lived in Northeast Philadelphia for a number of years, I know it’s not comforting to give up your neighborhood and bail.
For the longest time Lower Northeast Philadelphia had wanted to split the 15th Police District so that more crime-intensive areas like Frankford had more attention while the larger expanse of the Northeast would not be drained by police resources being sent away from the neighborhoods. A police district split is not going to come because of internal police office politics which they will never get over, nor will Mayor Kenney ever agree to it as it requires re-budgeting.
Whatever the property warehousers and absentee investors couldn’t do to kill off the value of the Lower Northeast communities, an absent City government combined with the heroin crisis and a DA that does not need to pay any attention to Northeast Philadelphia is a deck of cards stacked against you. Barring Krasner having a change in philosophy or a desire to quit and run for higher office, this is our DA for far more than just the next four years.
City Hall’s track record of ignoring un-wealthy outer neighborhoods will continue. Middle and working-class neighborhoods like East Oak Lane, Olney, Crestentville, Lawndale, Summerdale and Oxford Circle which took massive blows during the Great Recession will continue to receive a cold shoulder from city government for the forseeable future. The problem of absentee investors that impacted neighborhoods like Mayfair has recently made an appearance in East Oak Lane as homeowners disappear and more transient residents and vacancies take their place. These neighborhoods are also being impacted by the rise in the city’s crime rate. If Mayfair catches a cold, East Oak Lane will get the flu.
Those living in Gentrificationland where most of the progressive base that elected Krasner as DA will have somewhat less to worry about. Those gentrifiers who are in more overtaxed police districts will likely at some point start noticing an impact in the City’s crime rate. Those in Center City, as always, will remain completely oblivious. [Unless of course it’s over some small bullshit and they have a hootinanny circus of a meeting about it.]
At the end of the day political control and attention in this election in the city has shifted inwards to the ring of gentrification surrounding Center City, mostly comprised of white progressives and affluence. That’s likely going to be the story for some years to come. Even the bulk of the journalists that write columns and submit stories in Philadelphia all live in gentrified neighborhoods [just pull down PA’s voter registration stats and take a peek]. Congressman Bob Brady and IBEW98 business manager John Dougherty, the two most powerful Democrats in the city are both waiting for their respective indictments. This spells an end to the City’s traditional political machine as we know it and possibly the beginning of a new one.
Is Krasner a setback for those concerned about crime? It depends on where you live and income levels and a billion other factors, but as Krasner has stated in his policies–yes, some of them are poised to increase overall rates of crime.
Is there anything you can do about it? Well, I don’t think kranserbars is a good look for any house. They’re a fire hazard and they decimate the resell value of your home. Only people who work for the city (but not some cops) are contractually obligated to live in Philadelphia, so you always have the option of picking up a phone. If you live close to Center City and a lot of white progressives live around you, there is little to worry.
And whatever happens—remember that white progressives who own their housing units on the whole have fat mortgage obligations and are vested. Their breaking point for tolerating crime is a lot lower than the average Philadelphian. They will react; and usually they will overreact whenever they are personally affected. Nothing kicks off a “what can be done about this?” meeting about crime in a white progressive neighborhood than the local kids witnessing a murder scene cleanup.
But if you live in Holmesburg where nobody downtown gives a shit about you… why haven’t you moved out yet?
p.s. S/O to my buddy Adam Lang who bailed out of the Sharswood neighborhood and is now living in Montgomery County. You made the right call.