MEDIA – District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer announced last week that his office had received a $2 million grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to continue and expand anti-violence initiatives in Chester.
“Today’s announcement is the result of two years of work by my office to support a collaborative approach to reducing gun violence in the city of Chester,” Stollsteimer said in a statement. “This collaboration – involving my office, (State) Attorney General (Josh) Shapiro, Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland and the Chester Police Department – has yielded concrete and demonstrable results, which is why PCCD has so favorably welcomed our candidacy.”
Delaware County was one of only four applicants to receive $2 million, the highest amount available through PCCD’s violence prevention and intervention grant program, the spokeswoman said. District Attorney and Grants Writer Margie McAboy.
This was the fourth time the office had applied for funding. This time, he not only had the strong backing of Shapiro’s office, but the demonstrable results of a data-driven effort to reduce gun violence that began in October 2020.
Assistant District Attorney Matt Krouse previously explained that the Chester Partnership for Safe Neighborhoods is a deterrence-based program that offers a “carrot and stick” approach to combating gun violence by first informing the criminal element in an area known to the police. of their activities and issuing the ultimatum: “If you let us, we will help you; if you force us, we will arrest you.
Help can come in a variety of ways, from simply reinstating a suspended license or a gift for someone’s daughter while they are in prison, to enrolling an offender in an educational program or professional so that he can legally improve his lot in life.
“The shutdown” also takes many forms, including arrests, increased probation meetings, spotlights or noise machines set up at various corners, and stricter arrest warrants and stricter enforcement of payment of child support. A complementary community policing component instituted by Chester Police Commissioner Steven Gretsky has meanwhile sought to foster a better connection between residents and law enforcement.
According to figures provided by Stollsteimer’s office, the program has already yielded results. There were 80 shootings in 2021 from 122 the previous year, a 34% drop and the lowest number in at least five years, according to data from the partnership. Last year also saw the highest “clearance” rate – or arrests made – in homicide cases in at least two decades, at 57%. Krouse, who is responsible for running the CPSN, said 2021 saw a 38% decrease in total homicides and a 44% decrease in gun violence homicides, from 34 in 2020 to 21 in 2021.
These numbers appear to hold for 2022 as well. Through April 30, there were 16 non-fatal shootings compared to 20 in 2021 and 24 in 2020, down 20% and 33%, respectively. Chester saw seven homicides in the same period compared to six in 2021. That’s a slight increase from last year, but down by more than half over the same period in 2020, with 16 homicides.
“As has been said many times over the past two years, the people of the City of Chester are extremely grateful to the District Attorney and his excellent team for all they have done to reduce gun violence in the city. town,” Kirkland said. “We are thrilled with the opportunities created by this funding to continue and expand our collaboration, and we remain firmly committed to this effort to improve the lives of city residents, especially our families and children.”
The partnership also benefited from the support of the county council, which resulted in the hiring of community resource consultant Jean-Pierre Brice, who helps steer residents who may be involved in gun violence to the “carrot” end. of the spectrum.
The new funding block should offer a lot more of those cores, McAboy said, and a lot more people helping drive traffic to them. The lion’s share, approximately $965,000 over two years, will go towards hiring two additional resource advisors and a program director who will be responsible for coordinating various events with existing agencies or organizations, as well as developing the partnership’s own programs.
“We’re just committed to maximizing the impact of money and not reinventing the wheel,” McAboy said. “We know there are some really good organizations in Chester right now doing a really good job, and we know it’s no use to us trying to duplicate a summer basketball camp the same three weeks that Making a Change Group is doing it, so part of the job of the program coordinator is going to be trying to figure out, okay, what’s the annual schedule here, who’s doing what, when and how to fill those gaps.
“You have large-scale community programs that we want to help, everything that already exists there, everything that we can start on our own, to keep children engaged and away from violence in the streets,” said said Stollsheimer. “It all fits into this rubric because if you let the kids play basketball instead of hanging around the corner, you’re stopping the gun violence. You’re also disrupting groups that would otherwise use that basketball court for something else. But also , we need more resources for things like mentorship programs, counseling… some people need job opportunities, some people need CDLs, some people need transportation, some people need of formula milk.
The partnership also focused on greater intelligence sharing between law enforcement and weekly meetings between detectives and attorneys from the District Attorney’s Office with their Chester Police Department partners to ensure that they all have the most up-to-date and complete information.
Another $814,000 of the grant will be used to continue this effort, providing two additional officers to the Chester Police Department and implementing a state-of-the-art system to improve cameras in the city so they are better connected, said said Stollsheimer.
He hopes this improved camera system can be used to bolster the third area of funding: environmental cleanup and the prosecution of illegal dumpers.
Stollsteimer set up an Environmental Crimes Unit after taking office, led by Assistant District Attorney Melissa Muroff, McAboy said Muroff’s research in Chester helped show a correlation between environmental cleanup and reducing crime, which resulted in getting subsidies for things like waste hauling, landscaping. and maintenance. Stollsteimer said about $235,000 of the grant is earmarked for this piece, which he hopes will inspire other volunteers or funders to get involved as well.
“I really honestly think the best thing happening in the city of Chester right now is that everyone… is working towards the same goal: to make Chester the great place we know it is and can be. ‘He just gets a little bit of investment,’ he said.