PHILADELPHIA (November 24, 2021) — District Attorney Larry Krasner on Wednesday issued the following statement on the public health and safety crises of violence and preventable deaths:
“As we approach the new year, a bloody and heartbreaking measure of our national and local gun violence spike will be reached in Philadelphia: 500 homicides, many by guns and increasingly of women and children victims. This history-making increase comes even as violent crime generally has declined and total crime has remained relatively flat during the pandemic in most major jurisdictions.
“The new year brings another, related, and likewise heartbreaking and bloody metric: 2022 is regarded by many scholars as the 50th anniversary of the start of America’s infamous 500% spike in mass incarceration. These two landmarks directly connect, and divesting from our disastrously costly system of mass incarceration is the only way to re-invest in what actually works to make us safe from gun violence and fix what it took 50 years of mass incarceration to break.
“Safety from gun violence is a matter of racial justice for everyone, but especially poor, Black, brown, and young people. It is unconscionable that we are the most powerful nation on the planet and also the most powerless — politically — to address and stop preventable harm and death. We should all be outraged and moved to action: meaningful, sustainable action that lifts up communities and breaks cycles of trauma and harm.
“But what we ought not do is repeat what has always been tried before, and failed before, simply because it was easy and politically palatable. Mass incarceration has not only failed to make us safe, it remains a knee to the necks of Black and brown people and poor people, creating perpetual cycles of violence. The supposedly ‘tough on crime’ era beginning in the 1970s turned out to be crime’s best friend: a mantra to justify wrecking public education, mental health and drug treatment, and equal investment in opportunities for young people in the most endangered communities.
“Young people deserve quality education and healthy, safe spaces to play, learn, and grow. All people deserve access to healthcare, period, including for behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment. And Philadelphia deserves a modern law enforcement apparatus that has the tools and sweeping capacity to use forensic science to swiftly and accurately solve shootings right now. So far this year, just 27% of homicides by gun and 15% of non-fatal shootings have resulted in arrest. That is an urgent call for all of us in law enforcement to do better and invest in enforcement that actually works.
“Right now, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is itself on trial — literally — for depriving mostly Black and brown and poor communities of a thorough and efficient system of public education. That is not coincidental to this moment. More than 100,000 Americans have died this year alone from preventable overdose deaths. That, too, is not coincidental to this moment.
“Nationally and locally, we are in a gun violence spike built on despair because we have systematically failed to meet the needs of disadvantaged and vulnerable Americans. My administration always has and always will continue to seek accountability for people who engage in violence and destructive crimes, who harm others and take lives. But we need our partners across public and private institutions to join us in the bigger fight for justice — the fight to prevent the next murder by gun, to spare the next victim.
“Finally, I love this city fiercely, as do most Philadelphians. We need to take our heartbreak and outrage and put it to work for the good of our neighbors, in our beloved city of neighborhoods. In 2022, we know what to do: We need to divest from a half century of mass incarceration and re-invest in prevention and enforcement that actually work.”
Jane Roh, 215–686–8711, [email protected]
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is the largest prosecutor’s office in Pennsylvania, and one of the largest in the nation. It serves the more than 1.5 million residents of the City and County of Philadelphia, employing 600 lawyers, detectives, and support staff. The District Attorney’s Office is responsible for prosecution of approximately 40,000 criminal cases annually.