Movement to Recall Philadelphia DA Faces Hurdles as City Crime Rises

By Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Reporter
Beth Brelje is an investigative journalist covering Pennsylvania politics, courts, and the commonwealth’s most interesting and sometimes hidden news. Send her your story ideas:
July 7, 2021 Updated: July 7, 2021

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, a former civil rights attorney aiming to change the criminal justice system, is the target of a movement to allow limited recall elections in Pennsylvania.

“Anything we can do to get rid of Larry Krasner, the FOP is in favor of it. Clearly his policies have been a danger to Philadelphia,” Mike Neilon, spokesman for the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), told The Epoch Times. “This talk of a recall—from the FOP perspective, anybody but Larry would be better.”

Under current law, Pennsylvania has no recall provisions for any elected position.

The state Constitution must be changed before citizens could pursue a recall election.

An amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution was first introduced in 2020 by Republican state Rep. Martina White, to allow for the recall of elected officials who oversee local or state executive branches, agencies, or departments. The original bill would have given voters the right to recall Pennsylvania’s governor and other high ranking state officials, but the language was amended last month while in committee and it now proposes allowing recall elections for an elected officer in “a city or county of the first class,” and that leaves only Philadelphia.

White singled out Krasner in a 2020 press release announcing the measure, which is moving slowly through House committees.

“Krasner has exhibited very questionable behavior, from hiring an employee he owed money to at a salary of $160,000, to severely lowering the quality of life in neighborhoods by what equates to the decriminalizing of prostitution, certain drug possessions, and his support for illegal heroin injection sites.”

Krasner took office in 2018, with support from progressive voters and $1.7 million in campaign donations from New York billionaire George Soros.

Since then, the Philadelphia crime rate has soared. In 2016, the city saw 277 murders. By 2020, Philadelphia’s murder count was 499. As of July 6, the city has had 286 murders, a 34 percent increase over last year’s high.

Philadelphia Police Capt. Matthew Gillespie wrote on Twitter this week that out of 303 total illegal firearm arrests through the Violation of Uniform Firearms Act in 2019 and 2020, just two have received state prison sentences.

In the first week of July, Philadelphia had 63 shootings, for a total of 1,125 shooting victims this year. That is up 28 percent from last year according to the mayor’s office.

“The crime numbers alone are staggering,” Neilon said. “We don’t hear any plans from the DA’s office about what are they doing for solutions.”

Krasner’s first term is up in 2021, but he is running for reelection and was well supported in the May primary election. Now he faces Republican Chuck Peruto in November.

“I don’t believe the majority of Philadelphia’s voters expected Krasner to radicalize the office in the way that he has under the guise of reform,” White said. “It now seems he would like to normalize criminal behavior, release criminals back onto the street and encourage criminals through shorter sentencing. All of this will only serve to further hurt victims and embolden criminals. Since his swearing-in, Philadelphia has been on a path to self-destruction.”

Krasner’s office did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

To become part of the state Constitution, White’s amendment must pass both the state House and Senate in two consecutive terms, then be passed by a majority of voters in a statewide referendum.

The Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union opposes the amendment, saying voters statewide don’t all have a stake in a Philadelphia matter, and by only addressing Philadelphia, the measure doesn’t solve the issue of voters having no way to recall elected officials in the rest of Pennsylvania.

Beth Brelje
Beth Brelje
Reporter
Beth Brelje is an investigative journalist covering Pennsylvania politics, courts, and the commonwealth’s most interesting and sometimes hidden news. Send her your story ideas: