City Council's gun task force holds 'emergency meeting'

Pat Loeb
June 26, 2019 - 9:25 pm

Pat Loeb/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia officials are working on several fronts to reverse the spike in homicides, but they said during an "emergency" City Council hearing on gun violence Wednesday that they are stymied by the systemic causes of violence. 

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner has proposed putting all shooting cases in a single courtroom as a way to combat the city's epidemic level of gun crime.

The district attorney said he's been working on the idea of setting aside a courtroom for preliminary hearings in gun cases because he believes it will speed up prosecutions.

“Where we're not running from room to room, where we have a more systematic way of treating victims and witness and protecting them, where both sides can have things move along quickly,” he said. “There's great importance when you have a shooting case in being able to resolve in nine months instead of 18.”

Krasner also complained that his office's budget was cut, even though he requested an increase and demanded faster analysis of drugs seized during arrests. However, he also said there were limits to the justice system's ability to solve the problem.

Council members seemed particularly concerned about entering summer, which is typically a high-crime period.

Councilmember Cindy Bass said she's requesting longer hours for recreation centers.

“This can be targeted geographically so that where we know that violence is more likely to jump off, we have some of these programs and activities in place,” she said.

Other witnesses reviewed steps they're already taking.

The deputy managing director discussed programs aimed at the root causes, such as poverty and unemployment.

Police Commissioner Richard Ross cited pinpoint policing in the highest crime neighborhoods and improvements in data analysis. He said the recent rash of homicides is alarming but urged council to stay focused on the issue.

“It shouldn't be when we reach some artificial threshold that we believe is unacceptable,” he said. “It should always be unacceptable. Behind these numbers are people with families who are devastated by what they see every day.”

Another concern was the reduction in force caused by the removal from street duty of police officers caught making inappropriate social media posts. Ross reassured them it hasn't affected safety.

“We felt that has such a profound and devastating effect on our brand and our reputation, we have to do what we have to do,” he said.