PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia’s high homicide rate may be linked to a rise in deprosecution practices, according to a recent study by the former district attorney of Chester County.
For the third year in a row, homicides in Philadelphia are at an all-time high, and fewer criminal acts are being charged or sought in the city.
According to prosecution research — specifically, sentencing data — former Chester County DA Tom Hogan found prosecutions had dropped 70% over the course of about five to six years in Philadelphia.
“The results that we come up with is that there was an increase of roughly 74 homicides per year from 2015 to 2019 in Philadelphia associated with deprosecution,” he explained.
Hogan, who is also a former criminal defense attorney, served as DA of Chester County from 2012 to 2020. He now works in private practice and is seeking a Ph.D. in criminology next year at the University of Cambridge.
He partnered with the University of Pennsylvania for this study and spent months researching deprosecution. The study found the spike started well before Philly’s current top prosecutor, Larry Krasner — who has faced criticism for his progressive practices — and actually began during DA Seth Williams’ time in office.
“The sentencings decrease by 35% in 2015 over prior trends,” said Hogan. “Then what you see by 2019 is sentencings in Philadelphia are down almost 70%, so that is a huge drop.”
Krasner took office in 2018. Williams served for seven years prior. The study does not include 2020 or 2021 data due to anomalies caused by the pandemic and civil unrest.
Hogan said making fewer sentencings was a “policy choice” that started with Williams but “increased dramatically” under Krasner.
When asked, Krasner criticized the study.
“[Hogan] is a traditional prosecutor. He is not a scientist in his field,” said Krasner. “He does not deserve to be a scientist and we respectfully disagree.”
Hogan said he was actually surprised by the data he found.
“My expectation was that I would not be able to show anything,” he admitted. “I did not think there would be enough data on the backend. … I was a little surprised when the results came out and they were so clear.”
He also pointed to a “wealth effect” — if a city is uniformly wealthy, it can create progressive prosecution policies without inducing more homicides. He said deproseucting small offenses, like prostitution or minor amounts of marijuana, would, most likely, not have a huge impact of homicide rates; but the bigger charges, like gun offenses or robberies, could.
The issue is not putting everybody behind bars, Hogan added; it’s putting the right people behind bars.
“How do we prosecute the right people for the right offenses to keep homicides down while not over-incarcerating?” he asked.