Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner is planning a series of community forums seeking input from residents on how his office can continue changing the city’s justice system and improve public safety as the gun violence epidemic continues unabated.
“We need input from the community, and we need it now more than ever,” he said.
During a press conference Monday, Krasner, who faces Republican Charles Peruto in November in a largely Democratic city, spoke as if he’s already won his race for re-election. He referred to working with the public as “our wish as we move forward in the next four and a half years, our wish to be in closer connection with community, our wish to be crowd-sourcing information to make sure we don’t have silos, to make sure that everyone is talking to everybody, and we are all able to work effectively.”
While the forums will not be a venue to air issues related to specific cases, he said they will give people in the neighborhoods most affected by violence and mass incarceration an opportunity to help.
“You don’t take ownership of the problem in your neighborhood, it’s not going to be solved,” said anti-violence activist Bilal Qayyum of the Father’s Day Rally Committee. “And when you take ownership, you bring in the partners like the DA’s office and the police and other groups out there that’s doing the work.”
Qayyum said many residents are afraid to send their children outside because of the historic uptick of violence in Philadelphia: At least 228 people have been murdered so far in 2021, a 33% increase over last year. Seventeen people were shot in the city between Friday evening and Sunday afternoon alone. At least five of them were killed, including two teenagers.
Homicide is the leading cause of death among young Black and Latino men in Philadelphia, according to the city.
Victims need more support, Qayyum said, and he hopes the forums will result in the re-formation of a victim’s advisory group within the DA’s Office.
The office has committed to spend $1 million dollars in grants to organizations that are fighting violence in the city, and Krasner said expressions of interest are currently being accepted. Legally organized nonprofits will be at the front of the line to receive grants, which will be awarded in July. Krasner said more money could be available later this summer.
The first community forum will be held on Monday, June 14 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Church of Christian Compassion on Cedar Avenue. The next forum will be held on Wednesday, June 23 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at United Muslims Masjid on S. 15th Street. Another is scheduled for Wednesday, July 7 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Triumph Baptist Church on Hunting Park Avenue.
Krasner said there will be a virtual component as well for those unable to attend in person.