Crime surged 25 percent over the past year in Delaware County, and Beth Stefanide, who is running for district attorney, is laying the blame at the feet of incumbent Democrat Jack Stollsteimer.
“My philosophy is simple. When you’re the DA – the chief law enforcement officer in the county – you don’t get to pass the buck,” Stefanide said. “I refuse to believe that the actions or inaction of the Delco DA don’t impact crime rates.”
The two recently squared off in the Delco Times, where Stefanide faulted Stollsteimer’s stewardship, and Stollsteimer defended his record.
“The ‘proof is in the pudding’ and ‘the Devil is in the details,’ as I have told a jury countless times,” Stefanide told DVJournal. An eight-year veteran of the district attorney’s office, she now heads a law firm specializing in estate planning and elder law. She said she is “passionate” about public safety.
“Our chief law enforcement officer, the person responsible for charging and prosecuting people for crimes, says it isn’t his responsibility,” Stefanide said about Stollsteimer. “He is a feather in the wind.”
Stollsteimer declined repeated requests for comment from DVJournal, but in previous interviews, he noted that the homicide rate in Chester fell by 60 percent during his first three years in office, and gun violence dropped by 46 percent through the Chester Partnership for Safe Neighborhoods.
But over the past year, murder and manslaughter across Delaware County were both up by double digits.
Stefanide said the time for excuses is over.
“Delaware County DA Jack Stollsteimer admitted in a statement to the Delaware County Times that Delco has indeed experienced a 25 percent one-year increase in crime on his watch,” Stefanide said. “Instead of voicing an understanding of why so many Delco residents are alarmed at the increase – and expressing empathy for the victims and families the increase has impacted – all DA Stollsteimer could say was that it was ‘silly’ to lay the increase at his feet, blaming it on ‘national trends’ supposedly out of his control.”
“I refuse to believe that we must accept higher crime and more dangerous neighborhoods as our new normal,” she said. “The data are unequivocally clear. Delaware County has gotten increasingly unsafe. We require a DA who is willing to speak the truth, acknowledge the problem, and express a genuine willingness to accept responsibility for the county’s public safety. I will be a District Attorney who works hard to make change and exhibits the leadership, empathy, and focused approach required to make Delaware County a safer place to live.”
Stollsteimer told the Delco Times the crime trends are national and cited crime statistics under his predecessors.
“Delaware County is not immune to these national trends. However, it’s important to keep the data in perspective,” Stollseimer said.
“Last year, according to the Uniform Crime Reports collected by the Pennsylvania State Police, 12,832 crimes were reported by law enforcement agencies in our county. That is consistent with recent trends, matching the number of crimes reported under Republican DA Kat Copeland in 2018 but far below the 17,000 reported under Republican DA Jack Whelan in 2013 or the 19,000 reported under Republican DA Mike Green in 2011,” Stollsteimer said.
“Readers who appreciate the honorable service of my distinguished predecessors in this office will note the obvious silliness of Ms. Stefanide’s assertion that the number of crimes reported in the county somehow reflections a personal failure of the county’s top prosecutor,” he added.
Not silly at all, according to Stefanide.
“The statistics demonstrate that under former, accountability-focused, and experienced DA Kat Copeland, the number of crimes reported steadily decreased into 2020.”
“Under the current DA’s term, 2020 – 2023, crime has steadily increased and is up 25.5 percent on the last fully reported year alone. Delaware County has not one but two of the most dangerous municipalities in Pennsylvania in 2023,” Stefanide said.
“In real-time, presently in Delaware County, between Aug. 14 and 21, 2023, there were eight shootings!”
“Clearly, deincarceration efforts such as ending cash bail, the failure to prosecute petty larceny, and eliminating a juvenile detention center are not working,” Stefanide added. “Defendants are not being held accountable, and the public is unsafe.”
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