Philadelphia’s GunStat, which started in February, identifies hotbeds of gun violence then tracks and targets violent offenders there before they commit other major crimes. The Philadelphia Daily News says the initiative involves unprecedented collaboration among the Police Department, the District Attorney’s Office, the mayor’s and managing director’s offices, the city probation department and several federal partners. In a city where 1,421 people were shot in 2011, about four per day, GunStat is a strategy that city officials say will work because it keeps the people who are most likely to shoot – and, in many cases, most likely to be shot – off the streets.
“If we can get these people in [custody] by whatever legal means to stop the violence, that’s what we’re trying to do,” District Attorney Seth Williams said. In GunStat, police work with assistant district attorneys who are assigned to regional offices to identify the most violent offenders in the program’s small target areas based on arrests, gang affiliations and probation status. Police keep close watch on the offenders and stop them for even the most minor offense, such as spitting on the sidewalk, so they can pat them down. If an arrest is made the assigned prosecutor is notified by the police and requests a higher bail. In some cases, they argue to revoke bail based on the person’s record. About seven months in, authorities are already seeing dramatic results. Nearly 70 percent of the 473 suspects awaiting trial or a hearing on gun charges are still in custody. Williams said that before GunStat was implemented, most of those defendants would have been released “unless they had a terrible record of failing to appear.”