For three months now, District Attorney Larry Krasner has been steadily sowing a narrative that his office can’t prosecute gun crimes because the Philadelphia Police Department isn’t making arrests fast enough. The police department, he says, is slow because they lack modern forensic technologies to track perpetrators.
“In order to turn the tide on the wave of gun violence … we must stop doing things that have never worked and start innovating, including by relying on forensic science and technology to solve more cases,” he wrote in his November email newsletter.
“I will continue to call on city government and our partners in law enforcement to invest the tens of millions of dollars needed for modern technologies that could revolutionize our ability to solve more cases and get more shooters off the streets faster,” he wrote in early January.
Then again at a press conference on Jan. 11, he said about a recent crime, “So here we have fifteen fired cartridge casings, but we don’t have the forensics in the City of Philadelphia to properly analyze them in ways that could actually identify who was involved in the shooting.”
When reporting on this and other remarks from that press conference, Broad + Liberty asked Krasner to provide his “Amazon wish list,” so to speak. If he wants the police to have new technologies, what are they? Has he asked the city council for the funding? Has his office applied for grants that could help with the cost?
The Krasner team did not respond. Similar questions to City Councilman Curtis Jones, chairman of the public safety committee, were also not returned. If Krasner has “continue[d] to call” for these technologies, certainly Councilman Jones could share some of this correspondence with the community?
Forgive us if we seem a little cynical when explaining why we think this line of attack from Krasner is more about excuse-making and less about problem solving.
First, as noted above, Krasner is characterizing these expenses as being in the “tens of millions of dollars.”
For example, if he’s talking about fingerprint recovery from shell casings by new technologies created by Foster + Freeman, he’s exaggerating about the price. We found the City of Chattanooga purchasing one of the company’s “Recover” fingerprint tools for $66,000 — a price that includes training.
Additionally, as a former defense attorney, Krasner knows that many cutting-edge forensic technologies seem promising in the beginning, only to be questioned later — sometimes leading to overturned convictions. We strongly doubt Krasner is ready to start prosecuting people with forensics tools that haven’t been tested by time.
The bright side of Krasner’s excuse-making is that he’s begun a worthwhile conversation.
A public list of needed forensic technologies would be productive, given how deep the city’s gun violence crisis is. In 2021, Philadelphia saw a record-breaking 562 murders and, as of this publication, has seen 32 homicides already in 2022. Our citizens are tired of finger-pointing — we at Broad + Liberty are, as well. If new forensic science can keep our families safe and our students alive, it would be most welcomed by the community.
Krasner blamed “stop and frisk” policing as a reason for less witness cooperation in Philadelphia. Although we feel that’s yet another dodge by the DA, we think a study analyzing trends in witness cooperation would be much appreciated, as well. Perhaps invasive stop-and-frisk tactics are to blame in part for failure to prosecute on gun charges. If that can be proved by air-tight, reputably sourced research, Broad + Liberty will be among the first to report it.
But does Krasner himself know what technologies are needed? Does he have indisputable facts in his back pocket? Or is he deflecting the blame of grieving citizens onto yet another scapegoat?
Philadelphians: the time to hold Krasner to his words is overdue. Demand that our district attorney’s office either list “the forensics” needed to ensure our safety or take accountability for the crisis of crime unfolding in our backyard.
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