Last month the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office announced the launch of a new prosecution entity, the Prolific Gun Offenders Unit. According to the DA’s office, the unit will focus on adults and juveniles who repeatedly and illegally possess firearms in the city of Philadelphia. 

Since the April 15th announcement, the DA’s office has not offered any updates on the unit or any Violation of Uniform Firearms Act (VUFA) prosecutions coming from the unit.

“The Prolific Gun Offenders Unit will prosecute the following gun offenses: Felon in Possession of a Firearm (VUFA 6105); Straw Purchases (VUFA 6111); Ghost Guns, Juveniles in Possession of Firearms (VUFA (6110.1)individuals who are arrested and charged with the manufacturing and distribution of polymer firearms, also known as ‘ghost guns,” the DA’s office announced on April 15th. “The Prolific Gun Offenders Unit will also utilize criminal intelligence gathering in collaboration with law enforcement and the Gun Violence Task Force to ascertain whether those arrested are actively involved with street groups who commit violence in Philadelphia.”

The DA’s office stated that assistant district attorneys assigned to the Prolific Gun Offenders Unit will also handle bail revocation hearings and will work closely with the DA’s Charging Unit to appeal low cash bail rulings by Philadelphia Bail Commissioners for those who pose a danger to the community.

“I extend my sincere thanks and gratitude to our partners in Philadelphia City Council for securing the funding to make this new initiative a reality,” said Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner. “I’m confident that under the leadership of Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Palmer, the Prolific Gun Offender Unit will vigorously and appropriately prosecute and convict the relatively small number of people who pose a significant threat to public safety in our city.”

Jeffery Palmer, the supervisor of the new unit, added, “We believe the Prolific Gun Offenders Unit will have a significant impact on violent crime and gun possession in Philadelphia. Through my work as assistant supervisor of the Gun Violence Task Force and Homicide and Non-Fatal Shootings Unit, I’m very familiar with the danger that illegal firearms pose to everyone in our city. The Prolific Gun Offender Unit will focus on the small percentage of people who pose a large risk to the safety and well-being of the wonderful people of Philadelphia.”

When I heard about the DA’s new unit, my first thought was how does one become a “prolific” gun offender in the first place? Shouldn’t these repeat offenders already be serving time in prison for illegal gun offensives?

Could it be that the prolific gun offenders are walking the street and committing more illegal gun crimes because Krasner and company did not properly prosecute them after their earlier arrests for gun offensives? 

Did Larry Krasner, known as “Let ‘Em Loose Larry” by cops and crooks alike, decide not to prosecute the illegal gun offenders or plea bargain the charges down to minor offenses? 

I reached out to retired Philadelphia Police Sergeant Gary Capuano and asked him what he thought of the new DA unit.  

“I don’t believe anyone defined what will be considered ‘prolific,’” the veteran Philly cop said. ‘Two arrests for illegal firearms? Three? Four? Five? Why does the city need another unit to do what has already been done for years? The Gun Violence Task Force is an example. There is also a program called GVI (Group Violence Intervention). 

“Philly Police continue to make record number arrests for illegal firearms, but the conviction rate of the District Attorney’s Office is low,” Capuano noted. “Some arrests for VUFA offensives have charges declined by the District Attorney’s Charging Unit, and the defendant is released, walking away free before the case even makes its way in front of a judge!” 

Capuno said that the reason for the low conviction rates may be because of the young, inexperienced assistant district attorneys Krasner hired, as well as the defendants being entered into diversionary programs rather than being fully prosecuted in court. 

“Isn’t establishing another unit to focus its efforts on prosecuting gun offenders admitting to the fact that the District Attorney’s Office has been failing the citizens of Philadelphia? It appears on the surface that the police are still doing their job. Police are taking illegal guns out of the hands of offenders in record numbers in spite of interference from politics and the lack of support from the top down,” Capuno said.

So, is the new unit a needless duplication of existing DA prosecutors and programs? Is the creation of the new unit simply a political ploy to make Larry Krasner appear to be tackling gun violence in Philadelphia? 

I’ll be curious to see the District Attorney’s future statistics from the Prolific Gun Offenders Unit.    

Paul Davis, a Philadelphia writer and frequent contributor to Broad + Liberty, also contributes to Counterterrorism magazine and writes the “On Crime” column for the Washington Times. He can be reached at pauldavisoncrime.com.

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