U.S. Attorney William McSwain of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania blames Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner for the rise in violence in the City of Brotherly Love. Krasner’s policies, McSwain announced, “create a culture of lawlessness; they leave criminals emboldened; and they have inevitable consequences.” Indeed, since Krasner took office in 2018, homicides are up 49 percent and shootings have climbed by 59 percent. If the trend holds, Philadelphia will tally more than 450 homicides in 2020—the highest count in nearly 30 years.
Crime is spiking precisely because Krasner isn’t holding serious offenders accountable. An analysis by my group, the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, found that Krasner is failing to prosecute felony offenses. Compared with his predecessor’s average conviction rates, Krasner either dropped or lost 26 percent more of all felony cases. More robbery cases (up 14 percent) and auto theft cases (up 37 percent) were dropped or lost. In drug sales (not possession) cases, Krasner dismisses or loses 55 percent of cases, compared with the 34 percent rate of his predecessor.
In his first two years in office, Krasner dropped or lost 47 percent of all illegal firearms cases—a 42 percent higher rate than the last district attorney, Seth Williams. Krasner won convictions in 21 percent fewer cases. Studies have clearly shown that gun offenders are likely to go on to commit more violent crime. This failure to keep criminals locked up had tragic consequences earlier this year when repeat offender Hassan Elliot (earlier jailed for felony illegal gun possession) killed Philadelphia police corporal James O’Connor.
On taking office, Krasner had released Elliot, who went on to violate parole when police caught him trying to sell cocaine. That same day, Elliot killed a man. Months later, Elliot murdered O’Connor, who was trying to apprehend him.
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