PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A new anti-crime initiative that joins together federal law enforcement agencies with the Philadelphia Police Department was announced on Thursday. It comes amid a violent week in Philadelphia, especially with a recent officer-involved shooting in Logan.
Last year saw almost 500 homicides in Philadelphia, nearly breaking the record. This year, law enforcement officials expect that record to be shattered. Now, the region’s top law enforcement officer says it’s all hands on deck to stop the shootingsREAD MORE: Philadelphia Mother Pleading To Find Driver Who Struck Son In Hit-And-Run, 'Guardian Angel' Who Found Him
“We came together now and decided we needed to do something,” Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Williams said Thursday.
Williams joined Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw at a news conference Thursday just feet from Independence Hall in Old City to address the city’s staggering murder rate.
“At this rate, we are on pace to surpass 600 homicides in Philadelphia this year,” Williams said. “That is shocking and devastating and nearly unheard of.”
The joint task force is called “All Hands on Deck,” and it includes the FBI, DEA, Homeland Security, and will include more federal agents on Philadelphia’s streets, more information sharing and federal charges for those caught.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, which normally handles federal crimes like tax evasion, is now strategizing with the local leaders of more than a dozen federal agencies like the FBI and ATF in conjunction with Philly police to together curb the city’s violence.
“Beginning this month, FBI is adding additional agents who will focus on investigating crimes with the most serious impact on victims,” Williams said. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will prioritize prosecuting in federal court those responsible for gun violence. Federal sentences are measured in years, not months.”
Officials also released a joint letter addressed to people who live and work in Philadelphia. It says, in part, “we know what the city needs. It needs all hands on deck to stop the violence. And that is what we are committed to provide.”
The new initiative does not directly involve the District Attorney’s Office.READ MORE: Philadelphia's Evil Genius Beer Company Giving Out Free Beers To Those Getting Vaccinated In May
“I’ve been asking for more and more consequences,” Outlaw said.
Outlaw stopped short of criticizing District Attorney Larry Krasner’s handling of violent crime, but the commissioner points out the new partnership between city police and federal law enforcement agencies is needed.
“Knowing that there is a serious consequence at the end of a violent crime, I think will do quite a bit to deter the violence that we’ve been seeing,” Outlaw said.
Outlaw welcomed the added resources, especially to help protect those most vulnerable.
“So far this year, 16 children under the age of 18 have been murdered here in the city of Philadelphia,” Outlaw said. “Enough is enough. The moment you commit that violent crime, you will feel the dread like never before because we are coming after you.”
Interesting to note that this partnership activates officers from agencies like the postal police as a “force multiplier” to attack the city’s most prolific criminals on the street.
Meanwhile, in the courts, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office said in a statement that prior to the pandemic, its shootings conviction rate was 85%, higher than the early 2000s.
Here is the full statement:
“Our fatal shootings conviction rate prior to the pandemic (when courts shut down) was 85%, much higher than during the early 2000s. We are able to successfully hold shooters and killers accountable — when they are caught by police. The DA welcomes more support from our federal partners in solving shooting cases, as well as President Biden’s plan to address gun violence. Most of this bloodshed would simply not happen if people who have no business handling firearms were simply not able to access firearms.”MORE NEWS: Friday Night In New Jersey Looks Like Something Out Of 2019 As Restrictions Eased
CBS3’s Matt Petrillo and Alicia Roberts contributed to this report.