by Anthony Hennen
A national trend of criticism aimed at district attorneys in major cities has sparked a feud in Philadelphia between the DA and state Republicans.
In August, a House committee investigating Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner issued a subpoena to his office. Krasner told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he will not comply and called the investigation “illegal” and “anti-democratic.”
House Resolution 216, adopted in June, created the Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order “to investigate, review and make findings and recommendations concerning rising rates of crime, law enforcement and the enforcement of crime victim rights.” The committee is solely focused on crime and enforcement in the city of Philadelphia and how public funds are spent to enforce the law and prosecute crime.
Republicans have been critical of Krasner as Philadelphia’s murder rate has dramatically gone up. Kraser became DA in 2018 and was re-elected last fall. Philadelphia saw 280, 277, and 315 murders in 2015-2017, respectively, but figures have increased signfiicantly since 2018, when 353 murders were committed. Last year, 562 people were killed, and the city is on pace to set a new record in 2022.
House Republicans vowed to move forward without Krasner’s cooperation.
“It is profoundly troubling that the District Attorney of Philadelphia is objecting to a bipartisan legislative effort to consider how public safety in the city can be improved to ensure residents and visitors are safe,” said Jason Gottesman, press secretary to House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff. “Rather than work with the committee and take the opportunity to share his views on how his policies are impacting public safety in the city, the DA has instead chosen to litigate the matter in the press.”
The GOP has emphasized public safety and accountability in recent months.
“Since the beginning of the effort to impeach Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, we have heard from countless Pennsylvanians, business owners and families who are fed up with the absolute lawlessness in Philadelphia,” said Rep. Josh Kail, R-Beaver/Washington, when introducing the House Resolution.
“While DA Krasner has been transparent in his willful dereliction of duty to enforce the law and should be removed from office, it is imperative the House takes a comprehensive approach to holding Philadelphia officials accountable,” Kail said.
District attorneys in major cities have come under criticism across the country. San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin was recalled and replaced in July by one of the prosecutors who left the office when he took over. Similar efforts are afoot against Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg and Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon, though a recall effort against him failed to qualify for the ballot.
While Philadelphia’s murder problem has grabbed state and national attention for good reason, it’s not the only city in Pennsylvania that struggles to combat serious crime. Pittsburgh’s number of murders has climbed from 78 in 2011 to 123 in 2020. While Harrisburg has a much smaller population, it also has seen murders in 2022 outpace 2021.
Even if state Republicans fail to impeach Krasner, murder and crime will remain a hot issue in the city. “I am considering running for mayor to put a stop to this trend,” former City Councilman Allan Domb tweeted. “Violence in our city is completely out of control and it’s time we did something about it.”
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Anthony Hennen is a reporter for The Center Square. Previously, he worked for Philadelphia Weekly and the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. He is managing editor of Expatalachians, a journalism project focused on the Appalachian region.
Photo “Larry Krasner'” by Larry Krasner.