Op-ed: The Grim Consequences of Soft on Crime Policy Spreads to Pennsylvania

The district attorney responsible for the release of a career violent offender charged in the deadly Christmas parade rampage in Waukesha over two weeks ago has long espoused a reckless approach to crime that is now being replicated by prosecutors across America. Here in Pennsylvania, the effects of this new approach are clearly showing an impact.

The website for Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm boasts “Progressive prosecutors in Philadelphia, Boston, St. Louis, and San Francisco have followed in John’s footsteps and designed similar programs” that partner with activists to determine policies on bail and prosecution.

The man charged in the November 21st parade massacre was out on just $1,000 cash bail after he allegedly ran over the mother of his child with his vehicle on November 2nd. As a result of that absurdly low bail, six innocent parade-goers were killed and 48 injured a few weeks after his release.

What’s worse is that the district attorney knew something like this would be the result of the movement to inject left-wing ideology into the prosecution of criminals.

 “Is there going to be an individual I divert, or I put into treatment program, who’s going to go out and kill somebody?” Chisholm said in a 2007 interview. “You bet. Guaranteed. It’s guaranteed to happen. It does not invalidate the overall approach.”

The results of this “progressive” approach to prosecution have been disastrous for citizens in Pennsylvania’s largest city under District Attorney Larry Krasner.   This summer, Philadelphia’s murder rate became the highest per capita of America’s 10 largest cities. Philly is now over 500 homicides for 2021, setting a record with a month left in the year.

One of those recent victims was a 21-year-old Temple University student killed shortly after Thanksgiving. The suspect in that crime had been previously arrested and charged in connection with another armed carjacking. Incredibly, a municipal judge required unsecure bail, meaning the defendant did not have to post any money to stay out of jail. Predictably, DA Krasner did not appeal.

Records indicate his office successfully filed a motion to drop all charges after trying only twice to get a “victim/witness” to appear at a preliminary hearing. Less than two months later, the former defendant killed the Temple student while he was unloading his mother’s SUV after returning home from Thanksgiving.

The effects of Philly’s soft on crime policies will not remain within city limits. Violent crime will spread to neighboring suburban counties as well.  Delaware County saw a 127 percent increase in homicides in 2020. Are Montgomery, Bucks, and Chester (all within a short drive from Philadelphia) next?

Progressive soft on crime ideas have spread to all levels of Democratic leadership in Pennsylvania.

Senate Democrats have introduced legislation, supported by Gov. Tom Wolf, to end cash bail entirely.

Wolf has called for changing the way bail is implemented in Pennsylvania, saying, “Our cash bail system is costly, unfair and doesn’t work.”

The elimination of cash bill will almost certainly lead to an influx of violent crime from freshly released criminals.

Shielding law abiding citizens from bad ideas does not mean we shouldn’t improve the process where needed. In the last two years, the General Assembly enacted laws to:

  • Better assess the unique risks and needs of probationers to reduce incarceration and cut costs to taxpayers.
  • Streamline the placement of offenders in drug treatment programs and other intermediate punishment programs.
  • Expand Pennsylvania’s definition of institutional sexual assault to include law enforcement officers and any person in the officer’s custody.
  • Expunge an individual’s criminal history record if the individual has been acquitted or pardoned.
  • Require thorough background checks for prospective law enforcement applicants.

These are widely supported, non-ideological changes implemented to preserve public safety while reducing costs for taxpayers. They are a far cry from the radical movement to release dangerous criminals into communities in response to the demands of left-wing activists.

Governor Wolf recently blocked legislation to allow citizens in those communities to protect themselves. He vetoed a measure I co-sponsored that would have ensured those legally allowed to own a gun could carry it openly or concealed, without needing a permit. A long wait period for permit approval can be a matter of life and death for a law-abiding citizen living in a high-crime area.

As the “progressive” Milwaukee County district attorney himself noted, atrocities like the massacre at the Waukesha Christmas parade are the expected result of policies that divert violent criminals from prison and put them onto the streets.

Every elected official in Pennsylvania has a duty to speak out against the further spread of these dangerous policies.

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