What about us? What do we think about crime in our neighborhoods?
The District Attorney’s office wants us to step up and speak.
Jacqueline Coelho, the assistant district attorney in charge of the DA’s Northeast Bureau, last week told members of the 15th Police District Advisory Council that residents can make community impact statements at the sentencings of people convicted of crimes with guns. Judges need to know how these crimes affect not just the families of victims, she said during the PDAC’s July 28 meeting at the Mayfair Community Center; they need to know how gun crimes affect their communities, their quality of life.
When sentencing, judges consider protecting the public from the criminal, the gravity of the offense committed and how it affects the public, and the rehabilitative needs of the defendant, Coelho said in a July 29 phone interview.
“Sometimes, sentencing becomes all about the defendant,” she said.
The community should have its say, too, she added. The focus should be on a crime’s impact on the victim — and the community, she said.
District Attorney Seth Williams, Coelho said, in looking at gun crimes, is seeking prison terms he believes will add to the public’s safety.
Community impact testimony helps, she said. Judges will take into account what residents have to say about the impacts of crimes in their neighborhoods, she said.
Coelho said a Wawa spokeswoman has testified on how armed robberies affect the convenience store chain’s employees. Sometimes, workers don’t want to go back to their jobs after crimes are committed in the stores, the ADA said. Pete Specos, the Frankford Civic Association’s president, said he has testified on gun crimes’ community impact at three sentencings.
“The DA wants to see significant sentences,” Coelho said, and “that these crimes are more than just a mistake.” Criminals kept in prison longer makes communities safer, she said.
Anyone following a local case who wants to be present at a sentencing can contact Coelho at DA_Northeast@phila.gov to find out when a sentencing is and to make arrangements to testify. ••