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GIORDANO: The Heart of the City

Widely different views of Philadelphia’s future came into focus last week.

Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker and District Attorney Larry Krasner held major press conferences with widely divergent approaches to fighting crime.

Parker announced that Pedro Rosario, a Philadelphia Police captain in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, was elevated to the rank of deputy commissioner, and his sole mission will be to police Kensington. This is a much-needed signal that Parker is going to bring a methodical and determined approach to the shame of Kensington. She said several times on my show that she has compassion for those addicted to drugs, but Kensington will not be an open-air drug market on her watch.

On the other hand, Krasner’s press conference was dedicated to his opposition to the new state law, Act 40. It requires the Pennsylvania attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor who would have the power to prosecute crimes that happen on SEPTA or in the general area of their stations. The intent is not to take away Krasner’s power to prosecute but to add a prosecutor who will enforce laws that Krasner ignores or does not fully charge. This bill had the support of many Democrats in Harrisburg and was signed into law by Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro.

Krasner and his supporters said this law suppresses democracy in Philadelphia, and they blamed former President Donald Trump’s influence on Republicans in Harrisburg. Krasner also claimed that his philosophy and methods still have overwhelming support in Philadelphia.

I would challenge that assertion. If Krasner still had that kind of support, then former City Councilperson and Krasner favorite Helen Gym would have beaten Parker in the Democratic primary for mayor. Instead, Parker won because people in many minority neighborhoods in Philadelphia wanted an all-out effort against lawlessness.

The arena where Parker and Krasner will first lock horns is over retail theft. It is clear that Krasner will not prosecute shoplifting under $500. It’s clear that even if the items stolen are over $500, Krasner will not do much about it. This policy has led, in some cases, to a lack of effective police response to these crimes and some businesses, such as Wawa, to either leave Philadelphia or scale back their presence.

Parker and newly-appointed Police Commissioner Kevin J. Bechtel are going to fully prosecute these crimes and periodically inform the public of arrests. They will challenge the Krasner narrative that the police are not doing their job. I believe this is a crime that infuriates people, and they want it to be a police priority.

The secret sauce for Parker on Kensington drug crimes and retail theft is community engagement. She and police officials will meet extensively with communities and will incorporate their ideas. She also will institute massive cleanup campaigns across the city.

Parker does not shy away from a fight.

However, it’s unlikely that Krasner will change his methods. He believes his policies are the best way to lead Philadelphia out of some of the worst poverty in the country. He still has great support in largely progressive neighborhoods that are somewhat insulated from the worst of crime. Some of his base is even excited by the grand experiment he is conducting.

Parker’s targeting of Kensington through engagement and enforcement is the model to use to diminish Krasner’s destructive capabilities. If she can make it work in Kensington, she can make it work anywhere.

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SOLOMON: New Philadelphia Mayor Sets Sights on Crime

In her first hours on the job, Cherelle Parker, the new mayor of Philadelphia, has outlined a platform that prioritizes addressing crime and improving law enforcement.

On Parker’s first day in office, she declared, in an executive order, a state of emergency on crime. Parker declared a citywide public safety emergency, directing the Police Department to develop comprehensive plans to address crime across the city.

This action is no surprise given Parker’s election platform, built on her commitment to tackling the pressing issue of crime and public safety.

This executive order calls for a report from the police commissioner within 30 days outlining a plan to reduce crime levels. The mayor’s supporters will undoubtedly view the executive action as highlighting her commitment to prioritizing public safety and firmly demonstrating her intent to tackle the challenges promptly and proactively.

Parker’s planned response to gun violence includes a focus on more policing and the reintroduction of stop-and-frisk. Before the election, Parker expressed the need for a high-quality law enforcement leader who could change the culture of the police department, emphasizing the importance of reform, empowering good officers, and standing up to the police union.

Parker has been supportive of law enforcement, indicating a willingness to consider controversial practices and change tactics.

The mayor’s platform is aimed at striking a balance between empowering the police to do their job and addressing the concerns of the community.

Through the declaration of a public safety emergency and the stress on the importance of comprehensive plans for crime prevention, Parker has indicated a prominent emphasis on law enforcement and community safety as central elements of her agenda. The executive order serves as a guide for her governance approach and initiates a sequence of measures designed to enhance public safety.

The best-case scenario is that the mayor’s emphasis on reducing crime and improving public safety would shift in the Philadelphia Police Department’s operational strategy toward a more proactive and community-oriented approach.

Civil rights groups have raised concerns about excessive policing and its effect on certain communities. The reintroduction of stop-and-frisk, a controversial practice known for its disproportionate effect on minority communities, has raised red flags.

After her election, Parker hinted at increasing police presence and potentially relaxing employment requirements. However, the potential of increasing police presence and relaxing employment requirements has sparked concerns about the risk of over-policing and the need to ensure that law enforcement practices are conducted to respect civil rights and avoid discriminatory outcomes.

Civil rights groups have historically emphasized the need for effective monitoring and accountability mechanisms to address police misconduct and ensure that law enforcement practices are in line with civil rights standards. Parker’s order is likely to amplify the concerns, emphasizing the need to balance public safety measures and safeguarding civil rights while promoting equitable and community-centered policing practices.

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