Yes, Virginia, Philly Does Have a Crime Crisis

After Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner responded to a reporter’s question by stating that Philadelphia does not have a crisis of crime, lawlessness and violence, he was criticized roundly by commentators. But perhaps no criticism hit the mark better than former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter in his op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“District Attorney Larry Krasner’s recent remarks about whether we are experiencing a crime crisis are some of the worst, most ignorant and most insulting comments I have ever heard spoken by an elected official,” Nutter wrote. “It takes a certain audacity of ignorance and white privilege to say that right now.”

Nutter went on to question what kind of 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.

Crime, one should note, was at an historic low during Nutter’s time as mayor. I reached out to Mayor Nutter and asked him why he wrote the op-ed and what he hoped to achieve.

“I wrote it because the DA was wrong, both from a factually and morally standpoint. I took great offense on behalf of those who have been shot and killed in our city,” Nutter replied. “Around Thanksgiving, during that holiday period, we crossed 500 murders and it is a tragedy and it is a crisis. It is a sign of ripping out the heart and soul of the city. And for him to say that there is not a crisis is just an indication of him being completely out of touch with the reality of the city, and I thought someone needed to say something and I decided to say something.”

In the op-ed, Nutter suggested that Krasner ought to be prosecuting criminals for carrying illegal guns and gun violence instead of coddling them. I asked Nutter what he thought of Krasner not prosecuting low-level crimes and what many believe are excessive plea bargains with violent criminals.

“I started with the premise that everyone who violates the law does not need to go to prison, but they need to be held accountable. There are a lot of ways to deal with low-level offenses, but there appears from news and other accounts to be just a general lack of accountability.”

The former mayor said that there was an overall sense that Krasner’s view of prosecution seems to make the city less safe.

“People who engage in negative or criminal behavior seem not to consider there are any particular consequence to their actions. When you have that kind of environment, you get lawlessness. The result is more crime. Because criminals, people who seriously violate the law, think they will not be held to account, that there is no particular consequence, or if there is a consequence, it’s not much.

“And that, I believe, is dangerous for the city. I want people who are thinking about violating the law to know, with some certainty, that they will be held to account, that they are consequences. If you shoot or kill somebody, you will be caught and you’re going to jail for a long period of time.”

I mentioned to Nutter that Krasner is perceived by many to be an advocate for, rather than an adversary to, criminals.

“I’ve been told that up on State Road, where people are incarcerated, his nickname is ’Let ‘Em Loose Larry,’ or ’Uncle Larry.’ The notion is that he is soft on criminal behavior. There is a sense in the city that people can do whatever they want. That is a problem.”

Nutter accused Krasner of “White Wokeness” in the op-ed. I asked him how he defined the term.

“Well, this seems to be a term with varying definitions, but it is this mission of being paternalistic, someone who knows what’s best for the black, brown, purple, or whatever, community. I’m here to save you from yourselves. I’m going to protect you from the police. That I’m the great, white hope. That, in itself, is a problem. It is this idea that I’m the liberal, white person who’s here to help you,” Nutter explained. “Black people want to be safe. They don’t want criminal activity in their communities. They are not against the police. They are against police brutality. Therein lies the difference.

Nutter stated that there is no question that there have been problems with certain police officers and that the criminal justice system needs to be reformed.

“I’m trying to express that you can simultaneously reform the criminal justice system and still have public safety.”

Paul Davis’ Crime Beat column appears here each week. You can contact him via

    • Paul Davis

      Having worked as a crime reporter and columnist in Philadelphia for many years, Paul Davis has covered organized crime, cybercrime, street crime, white collar crime, crime prevention, espionage and terrorism. He can be reached at

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