Philly law enforcement vows comprehensive crackdown on hate crime

Philadelphia’s top law enforcement officers promise they’re continuing to work to “vigorously” prosecute hate crimes during “this time of collective unrest.”

In a joint statement released via the mayor’s office Monday morning, District Attorney R. Seth Williams, City Solicitor Sozi Pedro Tulante and Police Commissioner Richard Ross said the District Attorney has “specially assigned a dedicated Assistant District Attorney in each of the six geographic zones that make up the DA’s office” to prosecute hate crimes.

The statement comes as the city — and the country — has dealt with a rash of hate crimes and related incidents following President-elect Donald Trump’s stunning win on Election Day nearly two weeks ago.

In Philadelphia, black freshmen at Penn (Trump’s alma mater) were targeted by racist, largely anonymous comments after they were added to a GroupMe message called “Nigger Lynching.” The incident was traced to three people in Oklahoma — at least two students at the University of Oklahoma faced discipline from the school — and Penn officials say they don’t believe anyone at Penn was responsible. Mayor Jim Kenney, Gov. Tom Wolf and Penn president Amy Gutmann have all strongly condemned the incident.

Shortly after, a man told Philadelphia Magazine he was harassed in South Philadelphia, called gay slurs and was then attacked by a group of men. There’s also been election-related vandalism and graffiti, including a swastika and the word “Trump” on an abandoned storefront and the words “Trump Rules” and “Black Bitch” spray painted on a vehicle.

The DA is promising his office will prosecute hate crimes to “the fullest extent of the law.” But, as noted in the statement, Pennsylvania doesn’t have a specific hate crime statute. Instead, alleged perpetrators would be charged with ethnic intimidation, a third-degree misdemeanor.

Here’s the full statement from the city officials:

“Philadelphia is called the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, and we are, thanks to our many differences, stronger together and benefit every day from our collective diversity.

“Today, we remind the men and women of Philadelphia that our offices will continue to prosecute any and all hate crimes to the fullest extent of the law. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office will continue to work seamlessly with the Philadelphia Police Department, the City of Philadelphia and the community; and the District Attorney has specially assigned a dedicated Assistant District Attorney in each of the six geographic zones that make up the DA’s office to vigorously prosecute any hate crime.

“Additionally, during this time of collective unrest, we also remind Philadelphians that violence or damage of property will not be tolerated. As the Mayor expressed recently, regardless of whether these actions are committed in the name of the President-elect or in opposition to him, they have no place in the City of Philadelphia.”

The city says all crimes should be reported to police by calling 911. They can also be reported to the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) at 215-686-4670 or pchr@phila.gov.  The PCHR also has an anonymous hotline at 215-686-2856.

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