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COMMUNITY

Building vital trust and relationships.

Without community credibility, the District Attorney’s Office and criminal justice system can’t function.

That’s why the Community Engagement Unit was formed: to establish critical links between the District Attorney’s Office and law enforcement, city government, community leaders, neighborhood organizations and residents of all ages and backgrounds.

We work hard at being a familiar and consistent presence in the community. Each month, we represent the District Attorney’s Office at dozens of community, civic association and police meetings. During the pandemic, we continue this essential work through digital interactions. 

We go where we’re needed to be a helpful, trustworthy resource; in return we get a first-hand understanding of what’s happening in our communities across the city and the challenges our neighbors are facing. 

All so we can talk and brainstorm with fellow residents on ways this office can help improve the safety and quality of life of our communities.

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“When people don’t trust the system enough to report crime and cooperate with investigations, we are all less safe.”

LARRY KRASNER
District Attorney
City of Philadelphia

COMMUNITY: OUR APPROACH

Our approach to community engagement is simple: we meet people where they are.

We strive for community engagement that is frequent, transparent and beneficial. 

Accomplishing this, we believe, requires multiple touch points: showing up to support victims and witnesses after a tragedy, listening to students suffering from trauma following years of gun violence in their neighborhood, organizing community events that connect job seekers with employers and other resources, as well as continually seeking to be of service.

We actively encourage all of the nearly 600 employees of the District Attorney’s office to volunteer in some of our city’s most challenged communities, offering ongoing opportunities and connections with several community-based organizations. 

Whether it’s putting together groups to serve meals to our hungry or homeless neighbors, assembling care packages for vulnerable and unsheltered youth or donating needed supplies to community organizations working on the front lines, we have a long track record of supporting local service projects and causes.

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DATA LAB: MEASURING JUSTICE

Throughout the pandemic, the Community Engagement Unit has worked tirelessly to connect with community stakeholders and elevate their concerns and experiences at remote and in-person events, including:
  • Monthly Virtual School Listening Tours
  • Virtual Town Halls
  • Civic Association Meetings 
  • Police Advisory Council Meetings 
  • Coffee & Conversation with Faith Leaders
  • Emergency Violence Community Meetings
  • One Stop Hub Events

 

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“I think you get a more positive response from the community when they see that you’re willing to be visible, willing to connect and willing to open up and really understand where they’re coming from.”

“I’ve always sought to create and implement transformative community policing programs that would engage people at their place of need. Effective bridge building can only take place when law enforcement serves with compassion and professionalism.”

G. LAMAR STEWART
Director of Community Engagement

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: WHERE YOU CAN FIND US

  • One Stop Job & Resource Hub. As we believe a good job can be an effective crime deterrent, we host job and resource fairs in different neighborhoods, bringing together dozens of employers, city agencies, education institutions, victim services, trauma care providers and other community resources. Prior to each fair, which have proven to be a popular and positive coming together of communities, our team works with block captains, canvasses surrounding neighborhoods and actively posts event information on social media
  • Community Liaisons. Community liaisons are assigned to support the work of the Community Engagement Unit by participating in police, community and civic association meetings.
  • Crime Victim Advisory Committee. We participate in monthly committee meetings to work with former victims, now advocates, to develop recommendations for improving access to and the quality of victims and witnesses services in Philadelphia.
  • The Police District Advisory Council. We participate in monthly Police District Advisory Council meetings along with community volunteers to discuss quality of life issues and elect officers who meet periodically with the Police Commissioner and Police Command Staff. To volunteer, contact your local police district.
  • Neighborhood Listening Tours. We hold neighborhood listening tours to meet with residents, business owners and community leaders, and visit schools, recreation and senior centers. Incoming Assistant District Attorneys, particularly those new to the city, often participate in tours to understand Philadelphia neighborhoods, their current challenges, areas of progress, and opportunities for further improvement. 
  • School Listening Sessions. We facilitate school listening sessions, educating students on topics, such as bullying, peer pressure and gun violence, while hearing what’s on their mind and seeing their perspective on recent happenings as well as the Office’s juvenile programs and policies. We also actively connect students and their families to community resources. 
  • Faith-based Leadership Breakfasts. Once a quarter, we meet with 100 faith leaders from across the city to discuss criminal justice policies and reforms. We are particularly interested in how our efforts are viewed through their congregations and their communities.
  • Incident Response. Our Community Engagement Unit and others respond to scenes of community unrest, homicides, and more.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: PUBLIC NUISANCE TASK FORCE

We’re combating crime at the neighborhood level through improved community engagement.  

Drug houses, nuisance bars, drug corners, houses of prostitution: locations like these can be more than a nuisance, they can devestate lives and neighborhoods. 

Our Public Nuisance Task Force partners with community groups and local residents to help close them down.

To start the process, a complaint must be filed with the District Attorney’s Office. Once it’s received and reviewed, an Assistant District Attorney specially assigned to the designated neighborhood usually sends a letter of warning to the owner of the residence or business in question that advises them of potential violations, laws or ordinances that may have occurred on the property.

If the suggested steps are not taken to rectify the issue, further investigations are conducted, which could result in additional legal measures, negotiation, and referral to other law enforcement or City agencies that oversee neighborhood disputes, abandoned vehicles, abandoned houses and vacant lots. 

Any property that is forfeited pursuant to an order of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas is typically sold at auction to the public with the profits going back into the community.

Public Nuisance Task Force 24-Hour Hotline: 215-686-5858

Callers may choose to remain anonymous.

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UNIT TEAM LEADERSHIP

Director of Community Engagement:
G. Lamar Stewart
[email protected]
G. Lamar Stewart grew up in Germantown and went on to become both a police officer and a minister. His life’s work has focused on helping build bridges between the community and law enforcement.
During his time with the Philadelphia Police Department, Lamar launched Turning a New Corner, a crime prevention initiative centered around employment opportunities, particularly for those with criminal records. 
He now leads our Community Engagement Unit.
The unit is also comprised of Community Engagement liaisons and volunteer Assistant District Attorneys.