There is an astonishing exodus afoot from the office of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, one of the prosecutors who took office on criminal reform platforms in recent years. Krasner has been criticized for his denial of any crime wave in the city despite other Democratic leaders complaining of the rising lawlessness (culminating this week with the carjacking of Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon at gunpoint ). The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Krasner’s office has lost 261 attorneys out of a staff of 340, including 70 prosecutors hired under his tenure. The office is described as in disarray with largely young, recent law school graduates carrying out the priorities and policies of Krasner.
Krasner drew criticism even from Democrats this month when he held a press conference to declare “We don’t have a crisis of lawlessness, we don’t have a crisis of crime, we don’t have a crisis of violence.” He later walked back those comments:
There has been a similar massive overhaul in other offices of other Soros-backed prosecutors, including over 50 prosecutors who resigned or were fired under San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. Mayor London Breed recently called for a crackdown on crime but Boudin joined other leaders to denounce that effort for more policing as potentially abusive and counterproductive.
For those of us who have long argued for new approaches to crime prevention, including greater youth programs, these prosecutors are hurting rather than helping the cause. George Soros seems to be funding the most extreme figures for local prosecution offices. There is a need for alternatives to incarceration but there is also a need for deterrence in policing and prosecution. We have seen the removal of the threat of arrest for crimes like shoplifting and the result predictably has been a sharp rise of such crimes in cities like San Francisco. The cause and effect seems obvious.
These prosecutors and extreme advocacy groups are undermining the effort to craft creative but realistic criminal reforms. Indeed, we have seen politicians who defunded or reduced police departments express regret that they really did not think through the implications of their actions. Other cities like Seattle and Portland are rushing to refund police after defunding police. The problem is that prosecutors like Boudin are opposed to ramped up prosecutions that would accompany ramped up arrests. The result can be increased feeding of cases into a system that then scuttles or abandons actual prosecutions.
That appears the problem in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports over the past year 73% of the 21,000 cases the office has handled were withdrawn by prosecutors or dismissed by a judge. That is a massive increase given the 36% of cases that were withdrawn or dismissed in 2017 before his election. It is like a fire brigade passing buckets to put out a blaze only to have the last guy pour the water on the ground rather than the fire. Deterrence depends on both the threat of arrest and prosecution.