Residents encouraged to speak up at 15th PDAC meeting

What about us? What do we think about crime in our neigh­bor­hoods?

The Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s of­fice wants us to step up and speak.

In court.

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_North­ to find out when a sen­ten­cing is and to make ar­range­ments to testi­fy. ••

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