Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams on Monday will launch a community-prosecution program designed to turn the city’s crime numbers around while forging better relationships between the community and law enforcement, reports the city’s Daily News. For the first time, most of Philadelphia’s assistant district attorneys will be assigned cases by geographic area. Those six areas correspond to the Police Department’s six detective divisions. This will allow prosecutors to work more closely and efficiently with the same police officers, detectives, clergy members and community activists to better spot crime trends and prosecute criminals.
The Criminal Justice Center is being reorganized to accommodate the system. The treatment of homicides, rapes and family-violence cases will not change, but the vast majority of the 75,000 cases handled each year–armed robberies, home invasions, attempted murders, etc. –will now flow through their community division. Each division will hear its criminal cases on a designated floor, and prosecutors will stay with their cases from start to finish. Pairing prosecutors and police is not a new idea. Williams said he’s following the lead of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who launched a community-prosecution plan in Washington, D.C., in 1996 when he was that city’s U.S. attorney.