I was an assistant district attorney in Philly in the 1990s. Over the past two decades, I have prosecuted countless violent offenders, insidious Mexican cartels, hostile gangs, and much more as a federal prosecutor in New Mexico. I am now retired.
I write to express my sadness for a once great city. Over the past two years, I have traveled to Philly numerous times for medical procedures at Jefferson Hospital. You are fortunate to have some of the best hospitals and doctors in the country. During a recent visit, I left knowing I would never return. Philadelphia has simply become too dangerous. It broke my heart to realize that the risks to my family and I are just not worth the upside to securing high-quality medical care in a city I truly love.
As a federal prosecutor, I know firsthand that effective prosecutions of dangerous and violent offenders will unquestionably result in safer communities. It is often recidivists who commit the vast majority of crimes, thus the effective strategy of prosecuting and imprisoning the “worst of the worst” by itself can have a dramatic impact for even the most vulnerable communities.
During my visits, I met with some of your exhausted police officers, criminal defense attorneys (some of whom I worked with many years ago), and regular citizens who are innocent victims of your crime epidemic. What I learned from these discussions is that Philadelphia has become a lawless city where violent, repeat offenders know that their cases are unlikely to be prosecuted. Should your useless district attorney, Larry Krasner, actually decide to prosecute a particular case, those arrested know full well that they will likely be released within hours of their arrest, able to offend again. Perhaps worse, even if they are actually prosecuted and convicted, these offenders also know their sentences will likely be so lenient that even they come away surprised by their good fortune. I was told that many of the cases referred to the district attorney for prosecution end up being dismissed for non-prosecution, an utterly disgraceful way for any criminal case to end.
What I learned from these discussions is that Philadelphia has become a lawless city where violent, repeat offenders know that their cases are unlikely to be prosecuted. Should your useless district attorney, Larry Krasner, actually decide to prosecute a particular case, those arrested know full well that they will likely be released within hours of their arrest, able to offend again.
As I walked around the city, I saw private security officers everywhere. You are so overrun with crime that even Wawa has security, something I found quite staggering. Some of the defense attorneys I know personally told me they are effectively useless since those arrested for even violent offenses know that Krasner is the only lawyer they really need – his formula for prosecution being non-prosecution. I have a feeling criminal defense attorneys have had to either reduce their fees or pursue other kinds of cases since Krasner took office. Why even bother getting a lawyer if your case is likely to be dismissed anyway? Just show up to court – nothing will happen.
The officers I talked to were utterly distraught by what’s happening in the communities they serve. They explained how they see the same offenders they’ve previously arrested over and over again. As long as drug cases, robberies, property crime, and crimes of violence go unprosecuted (like the recent, appalling assault on an innocent woman at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul), and such offenders are treated like victims instead of criminals, Philadelphia has no hope to dig its way out of this chaos. By the way, do not believe Krasner and others who use the term “non-violent drug offender,” which is often used as an excuse not to prosecute or under-prosecute drug criminals. I assure you from years of experience that there is no such thing. One of the lessons I learned from prosecuting the cartels is that all drug offenders belong to an inherently violent occupation, and all must be prosecuted aggressively to make a difference.
I am praying for you Philadelphia. I love you and hope that you can find your way out of this madness. But sadly, until you rid yourself of your crime-friendly radical representatives in your city government, including Krasner and your equally apathetic mayor, Philadelphia will continue to drown in this maddening wave of crime and violence.
Reeve Swainston is a former Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney under Lynn Abraham, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of New Mexico, and a former U.S. Marine machine-gunner.