“Is Larry Krasner a prosecutor or a social worker?” a disgruntled, veteran police officer asked me. “Is he a law enforcement officer or a political activist?”
The cop, one of many police officers who often contact me to vent, was upset about the District Attorney’s Violence Prevention Grant Initiative, which is Krasner’s response to gun violence and murder in Philadelphia. Earlier this month, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office announced the reopening of applications for grants.
“Instead of giving tax money to former gangbangers, con artists and well-meaning but ineffective community groups, the DA should use that money to hire more prosecutors. Experienced and talented prosecutors, not like the group of rank amateurs and social workers he has now,” the cop said.
On March 6th, Krasner’s office put out a press release that announced that the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Community Engagement Team were re-opening the application process for the DA’s Violence Prevention Grant Initiative, “as the city heads toward the Spring and Summer months of 2023 — a time of year in which gun violence, and the tragedy that accompanies this public health and safety problem, typically increases.”
According to the press release, the Philadelphia Foundation, in partnership with the District Attorney’s office, has awarded nearly one million dollars in violence prevention funding to dozens of local community-based 501(c)(3) organizations since May 2021. The foundation intends to award $250,000 in additional grant funding during this latest round.
“Tackling our city’s gun violence crisis requires the use of all the tools in our toolkit: vigorous enforcement and prosecution of those who are driving the violence in our communities; expanded forensic science in order to strengthen investigations and prosecutions; and prevention,” Krasner stated. “My office is thrilled to continue awarding grants to properly vetted groups who are providing the supports necessary to address the root causes of violent crime.”
“Vigorous enforcement and prosecution, my foot,” the cop said, referring to the DA’s the press release. “Ask any cop, and they will tell you that Krasner is soft on crime. We arrest the bad guys, and the DA won’t prosecute them or cuts a sweet-heart deal for them.
“Any cop will tell you, Krasner favors the crooks over cops. That’s why we have a high murder rate and so much gun violence in Philly. But he sure likes handing out tax dollars to community activist groups like most white, guilty, liberal politicians.”
As for the DA properly vetting the groups getting the generous grants, the officer scoffed and questioned the $392,000 given to the “Guns Down Gloves Up” youth boxing program.
“This do-gooder group, formed by a police captain no less, is now under investigation for fraud. I think most of these community groups should be investigated thoroughly. Are they on the up and up, and do they actually prevent gun violence?”
As a former amateur boxer who began training in the ring as a pre-teen at the South Philadelphia Boy’s Club in the mid-1960s, I thought that the Guns Down Gloves up was one group that might be worthwhile. But according to the Philadelphia Inquirer in January, the city suspended the lucrative grant to Guns Down Gloves Up and eight Philadelphia police officers have been placed on restricted duty and had their firearms taken away.
And according to the Inquirer, the FBI is investigating the program after the newspaper reported that the police officers had improperly received tens of thousands of dollars in city antiviolence grant money. The police officer who founded the program, former 22nd District Captain Nashid Akil, was reportedly transferred due to chronic absenteeism.
The Inquirer reported that the grant for Guns Down Gloves Up, awarded in December 2021 to Epiphany Fellowship Church and Villanova University, is the subject of several investigations. As the Inquirer noted, Guns Down Gloves Up was one of 31 programs that collectively received $13.5 million in what the city called Community Expansion Grants. It’s a part of a $155 million city effort to counter a historic surge in gun violence.
The Inquirer also reported that Captain Akil described the program as his, even though city employees are not eligible for city grants. Nearly $76,000 went to Akil and nine other Philadelphia Police Department staffers, according to financial records obtained by the Inquirer. The grant application specified Akil would not be paid.
The grant to Guns Down Gloves Up was suspended by the city in November, as the program was being investigated by the Philadelphia Police Department and the Office of the Inspector General.
“Some of these community groups do good work, I’m sure. But you know the best way to prevent violence in Philly?” the officer said to me. “Lock up the bad guys, prosecute them, put their butts in prison, and get them off the street.”
Paul Davis is a Philadelphia writer who covers crime.