Former Congressman Charlie Dent writes at CNN.com:
To watch a local Philadelphia evening news broadcast a few days before Christmas was a thoroughly depressing experience — there was the carjacking of a US congresswoman at gunpoint in south Philadelphia, a dangerous high-speed chase through narrow city streets and a police officer who was shot twice in the shoulder while responding to a robbery. With two 20-something children and a niece living in Philadelphia, I closely monitor the latest developments. The fear is palpable, and many residents are much more alert to the lurking dangers throughout the city.
During the last six weeks of 2021, my son, who is a
student at Temple University, was shaken down for money by three robbers at a
north Philly gas station. My daughter, a fourth-year medical student at Thomas
Jefferson University who spends a significant amount of time working at medical
clinics serving indigent residents, was assaulted by a deranged woman within
the shadow of City Hall. My niece, a graduate student at the University of
Pennsylvania, lives in a West Philly neighborhood where there have been
And that's just my family. Thankfully, all three are
fine and going about their studies.
The same cannot be said of the 559 murder victims in Philadelphia last year. That's
the most recorded murders in the city since it started keeping records in the
1960s. One such murder was of my son's fellow Temple classmate,
Samuel Sean Collington, who was shot during an attempted carjacking after the
Thanksgiving break. The suspect is a 17-year-old who was arrested and charged in August in connection with
violent crime including armed robbery. He was released when the victim failed to appear for a
Philadelphia had more murders in 2021 than New York City -- a city
over five times larger than the City of Brotherly Love. One would think such a
sobering, horrifying reality would cause local elected officials to respond
forcefully to a carnage of this magnitude. Instead, liberal Philadelphia
District Attorney Larry Krasner responded in December, saying while gun
violence had risen, other violent crime had not -- or to quote him directly: "We don't have a crisis of
lawlessness. We don't have a crisis of crime. We don't have a crisis of
And though Krasner later said that "message conveyed through media
sound bites is not at all what I meant" and that he did not mean to
diminish the pain of the families who had been victims of gun violence, it was
He had offended virtually everyone who possesses
functional eyes and ears. One such person so appalled by this monumentally
tone-deaf statement was former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, an effective
Democratic leader with a strong record on public safety who presided over the
city during a period of relative prosperity.
In a scathing op-ed, Nutter excoriated Krasner with lines like these: "audacity of ignorance and white privilege...I have to wonder what kind of messed up world of White wokeness Krasner is living in to have so little regard for human lives lost, many of them Black and brown, while he advances his own national profile as a progressive district attorney." Nutter added, "he [Krasner] has ignored the pain of the living and insulted the memory of the dead."
The Nutter-Krasner battle reflects a growing rift
within the Democratic Party over public safety. A vocal element within the
Democratic Party that advocated for defunding the police in 2020 has run into resistance from sensible Democrats who reject Krasner
and other DAs of his ilk around the country.
It's about time. With Democrats in a defensive
position for the upcoming congressional 2022 midterm election, crime and urban
lawlessness will be used as a wedge issue by the GOP against them, just as they did
with success in 2020.
Nevertheless, Democrats will remain more vulnerable on the issue given their
overwhelming control of big cities throughout the country where liberal
district attorneys and social justice Democrats have an outsized voice and
The bottom line is that elected officials in major
urban centers must address the homicide wave occurring on their watch.
Indulging those extreme voices who argue for defunding the police and making
law enforcement out as villains must end. It's time to get serious about what
is happening on the streets.
Democratic mayors, councilmen and district attorneys have the power to course correct if they have the courage and political will to do so. If they don't, Democrats will pay a price at the polls across the country as voters, who too often see horrifying local news segments full of upsetting criminal activity, will reject the party they believe bears responsibility for the decline in public safety.
Politicians who can speak effectively to the
menacing crime problem will do so by advancing public safety measures to refund
the police, end no cash bail, raise penalties for smash and grab robberies,
deploy more police in high crime areas, reinstate community policing, expand
crime victim services and enforce quality of life crimes.
Above all, the mission of law enforcement and the
men and women who serve must be supported by local elected officials.
In too many communities across America, police
officers don't believe they have, or can count on, support from their elected
leaders, which is damaging morale and depleting police forces. And this is only compounded by police forces facing backlogs, as
they struggle to solve the number of open cases they currently have on their
The political costs of a rise in violent crime, like
homicide, will be born most heavily by House Democrats in competitive
districts. Rep. Abigail Spanberger told her House Democratic colleagues
shortly after the 2020 midterm election in which she narrowly won re-election
that "defund the police" rhetoric nearly cost her the Virginia seat
What's worse than the political costs are the
impacts on the lives of our fellow citizens who fear for their safety in their
homes and neighborhoods. Crime drives residents who can afford to leave their homes, leaving behind more
vulnerable people with more limited incomes. Poverty becomes more pervasive as disinvestment saps the strength of those left
To get a real feel for the plight of people impacted
by violent crime, attend a neighborhood crime watch or civic association
meeting where elderly homeowners will provide an unvarnished assessment of
conditions on the street. Trust me, they won't hold back.
It's long past time to hear these good people out,
address their concerns and help them reclaim their neighborhoods. They deserve
to live free from fear and rightfully expect their government to help.
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