District Attorney Larry Krasner spoke at Monday’s East Torresdale Civic Association meeting.
Krasner’s presentation, which included questions, lasted 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Krasner explained that his office consists of about 650 employees, including 300 attorneys. About 240 attorneys handle trials, while the rest work on post-conviction appeals.
The rest of the staff consists of about 350 people, many of whom work in victim and witness services. About 20-30 are police officers.
Krasner encouraged law school students and graduates to apply for jobs.
“We’re actively hiring right now,” he said.
The starting salary is $70,000 for attorneys. Krasner said those attorneys can receive a pension and have law school debt forgiven if they work 10 years as a prosecutor or public defender or for a nonprofit.
Krasner, 62, described himself as a progressive district attorney, adding that similar progressives oversee the offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, Brooklyn and Manhattan.
“I love this job,” he said.
The district attorney said judges, not his office, set bail.
Across the country, he said there are high numbers of prison inmates and high percentages of violent crimes.
“Locking everybody up is not solving the danger,” he said.
Krasner said, in Philadelphia, public school students are denied resources by being in crowded classrooms and in schools with no nurses, counselors or assistant teachers. He favors more curriculum choices and extracurricular activities and increased access to the trades.
The district attorney’s office has a conviction integrity unit, and he’d like to have a cold case unit to track suspects in cases in which the individual who was convicted initially is set free. He also believes the city needs a modern forensics lab.
Krasner said his office’s conviction rate is in line with one of his predecessors, Lynne Abraham, in the early to mid-80 percent range.
Krasner rejected the so-called broken window theory, popularized by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, contending that the focus on minor crimes does not lead to a decrease in violent incidents.
“I don’t stay up at night worrying about somebody jumping a turnstile,” he said.
Krasner also opposes the law-and-order tactics of former Police Commissioner and Mayor Frank L. Rizzo.
“I’m not a fan,” he said.
In response to a question about illegal ATVs, Krasner said it can be dangerous for police officers to chase people on dirt bikes. City Council has given his office money to combat carjackings, and the number of carjackings is on the decline. Krasner would like to use some of the money earmarked for carjackings to be directed to illegal ATVs.
A woman complained that looters don’t seem to ever be prosecuted, while a man said the decrease in the local prison population is responsible for high crime rates.
“There’s 5,000 more hoodlums running the streets than there were 20 years ago,” he said.
Krasner responded, “Respectfully, sir, I’m not sure they were all hoodlums.”
Another man complained about a lack of police presence.
“You go to Bensalem, you see them all over,” he said.
While Krasner has no jurisdiction over running the police department, he would like Philadelphia cops to take a page from their counterparts in Camden and engage in more community policing.
The DA also wants to expedite the hiring of police officers and prison guards.
In other news from the meeting:
• ETCA and Glen Foerd on the Delaware officials spent an hour discussing planned upgrades at the 18-acre property, 5001 Grant Ave. The jewel is a 30,000-square-foot mansion. Ross Mitchell, executive director at Glen Foerd, explained that regional money is needed for preservation. Glen Foerd makes money by hosting weddings and seeks to build support by offering dynamic programming. The William Penn Foundation, the federal government and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission have helped Glen Foerd raise $700,000 for a planned 78-space parking lot.
Glen Foerd is also looking to pave driveways and create a new, angled exit.
Many neighbors were skeptical of the proposal, citing traffic flow inside and outside the property and the poor condition of the driveways.
Both sides will continue to talk to try to come up with a resolution.
• East Torresdale Civic Association will meet on Monday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m. at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, 9601 Frankford Ave. ••