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By getting illegal guns off our streets, we confront the root of many violent crimes and set the stage for future prosecution.

Research has shown that tracing and tracking data on illegal firearms, including their origin and whether existing gun laws were violated in their purchase, can reduce violent crime over time. 

In 2006, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office jointly formed the Gun Violence Task Force to investigate and prosecute crimes involving the illegal use of firearms. By reducing the number of illegal firearms across the city, and the violent crimes they help perpetuate, we make our city safer.

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“Like any effective movement, ending gun violence in our city is everyone’s responsibility, and it requires cooperation, diligence and determination.”

LARRY KRASNER
District Attorney
City of Philadelphia

GUN VIOLENCE TASK FORCE: OVERVIEW

The Assistant District Attorneys and criminal analysts of the Gun Violence Task Force focus on investigating and prosecuting firearms trafficking, straw purchases and illegal transfer, as well as gun violence.
  • Firearms trafficking. Prior to making a firearms sale, federally-licensed dealers must check the purchaser for violations using the Pennsylvania Instant Check system, which provides records to determine if the purchaser is falsifying information, eligible to acquire a firearm or licensed to carry a firearm. Failure to conduct this check is a felony offense.
  • Straw purchases. Purchasing a firearm for someone else without going through a legal transfer process is a felony. Even more serious is buying a firearm for an individual who is not eligible to make a purchase themselves because they are a felon or otherwise prohibited. If you make two or more straw purchases for other people, even if you are married or otherwise related to a person, you will face a five-to-ten-year mandatory sentence. 
  • Illegal transfers. Selling, giving or lending a firearm to someone else is against the law, unless you file the necessary paperwork to legally transfer the gun with a federally-licensed gun dealer.‎ Illegal transfers also involve investigating compliance with state and federal laws of firearm street sales, illegal lending and all other types of transfers.
  • Gun violence. The Gun Violence Task Force helps local, state and federal law enforcement agencies arrest and prosecute individuals who commit murders, shootings and robberies involving illegal firearms.‎‎ This includes long-term investigations into the violence that ensues when two neighborhood groups engage in retaliatory shootings in targeted city hotspots.
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“District Attorney Krasner’s expansion of the Gun Violence Task Force opens the opportunity for us to focus on hotspots where we know the violence is occurring.”

BILL FRITZE
Supervisor
Gun Violence Task Force

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DATA LAB: MEASURING JUSTICE

The Task Force has proven its impact with its steely focus on a very small number of people who are committing the majority of the most violent crimes in known areas of the city. 
Since December 2020, a PPD and DAO working group has reviewed an average of 50 illegal  firearms and non-fatal shooting cases per week to ensure ADAs have the strongest possible evidence to ensure justice.
 

GUN VIOLENCE TASK FORCE: STRATEGIC EXPANSION

To combat gang violence, shootings and homicides in Philadelphia—and the transfer of illegal firearms connected to them—District Attorney Larry Krasner has expanded the Gun Violence Task Force.

There are now 20 special agents, four supervising agents, five criminal analysts and nine district attorneys on the Gun Violence Task Force.  

The Gun Violence Task Force also uses grand jury investigations to uncover information that would lead to solving cold cases while working with the Philadelphia Police Department’s detective divisions to support current investigations of both non-fatal shootings and homicide cases.

GUN VIOLENCE TASK FORCE: OUR APPROACH

The Gun Violence Task Force supports federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as different divisions and units of the District Attorney’s Office, to build cases against the most violent criminals. 

Gun Violence Task Force investigations on who purchased illegal guns, where they were purchased, and how many times they changed hands, have proven beneficial in finding patterns and connections to make arrests and prosecute perpetrators of violent crimes.

Every gun has a backstory. Our criminal intelligence investigations often start with the generation of a report of a recovered illegal firearm from the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN).  

The Gun Violence Task Force also investigates everyone involved in the crime—perpetrators, victims and witnesses—to map their relationship to one another and understand connections across neighborhoods. But it can be difficult to build cases, and tie past incidents to new ones, when people are not willing to cooperate with investigations.  

In these circumstances, the Gun Violence Task Force can use the grand jury process:

  • An indicting grand jury when there’s a witness who is being intimidated by the person being prosecuted, someone they fear, love or both. In these cases, the witness is allowed to testify initially behind closed doors. 
  • An investigative grand jury when there’s a need to investigate crimes more deeply and over a longer period, accessing data and pulling information otherwise not available, and leverage new resources, including an array of more sophisticated technologies.

As a result of these additional resources, the Gun Violence Task Force can make way for multiple arrests, instead of a single arrest, in one shooting incident.

The Gun Violence Task Force, armed with the power of the grand jury, also works steadily on unsolved cases to help secure justice for the victims of these crimes as they try to solve current cases.

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UNIT TEAM LEADERSHIP

Supervisor:
William Fritze
[email protected]