HARRISBURG – As the Philadelphia area struggles with an increase in crime, state Reps. Kristin Marcell (R-Bucks) and Kathleen “K.C.” Tomlinson (R-Bucks), held a hearing in conjunction with the House Republican Policy Committee focused on the reasons behind the increase in crime and options to address it.
“As crime continues to rise in the Philadelphia area, it is becoming harder for our communities to feel safe,” Marcell said. “It is crucial we do all we can to find the reasons why this increase is happening and what we can do to fight back against it. With a district attorney unwilling to act in Philadelphia, it has become clear it is up to us as legislators to find solutions to this crime increase. It is crucial we put the safety of our constituents first.”
“Representing a community directly bordering Philadelphia, I know firsthand the consequences of trickle-down crime from the city,” Tomlinson said. “This increase in crime makes families feel less safe, small businesses feel unprotected and makes the job of our law enforcement harder. The consequences this increase has on our communities impacts every person in our districts. It’s time to refocus on justice for those who have been affected and giving our law enforcement the tools they need to do their jobs.”
The hearing’s testifiers were Jennifer Schorn, Bucks County first assistant district attorney; Fred Harran, Bucks County sheriff; William McVey, director of Public Safety, Bensalem Police; Steven LeCompte, chief of police, Northampton Township; Rudolph Mueller, security director, Bimbo Bakeries; and Dominic Varacallo, police chief, Upper Southampton Township.
Harran spoke on the general increase of crime in Bucks County, along with the growing use of xylazine in communities. Last year alone, Bucks County experienced major increases in crime overall; up by 22.7% in robbery, 17.1% in sexual assault, 32.9% in burglary, 21.8% in theft and 30.6% in auto theft, for a 18.7% total increase in major crimes. Along with this crime increase, police, sheriff and corrections departments continue to see a reduced number of law enforcement applicants, making it difficult to staff and protect our communities.
“You often hear the phrase’ crime knows no borders,’ and this is so true in this situation,” said Harran. “When Philadelphia criminals commit crimes in Bucks County, the reception is much different here. They are arrested, prosecuted and, if convicted, they go to jail.”
Schorn discussed the rise of catalytic converter thefts and how making those thefts felonies instead of misdemeanors would help police save resources to be used to investigate more brutal crimes.
“These are the people who should never possess a firearm. They have lost that right,” McVey said. “When an officer removes a gun from a felon, they may have saved a future life or prevented a future tragedy. The problem is, without strong penalties, these felons are often released and go back to carrying and using illegal firearms. Many of these felons were arrested after being stopped on a car stop by an officer for a minor offense. Many are from Philadelphia, in some cases out on bail for illegal gun charges or violent crime. Without a system of justice that holds criminals accountable and places more focus on the victims of crime, we will continue to be plagued by what we are seeing play out now on our streets.”
“It is a blight on all of our resources day in and day out,” Schorn said. “As the resources are devoted to these thefts, homicides are happening. And the same detectives who must investigate the most brutal homicides are getting swept so thin because they’re dealing with a rash of catalytic converter thefts.”
LeCompte spoke on the growing prevalence of mail theft. Mail theft has grown by 600% in the last two-and-a-half years in Northampton Township.
“Mail theft is often an organized criminal act, and the grading of the offense should reflect the serious impact it has had on our businesses and residents,” said LeCompte. “The problem is so serious we told our residents to take their mail into the post office to prevent theft and to avoid using the U.S. mailboxes outside the post office.”
“Crime stemming from Philadelphia is escalating at an unprecedented rate, and it is our job to restore hope to local residents and reverse this trend,” said House Republican Policy Committee Chair Josh Kail (R-Beaver/Washington). “As unchecked crime and violence continue in Philadelphia, communities in surrounding counties are suffering the consequences because of a soft-on-crime stance maintained by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and his allies. Our caucus is behind our law enforcement, and we will exhaust all options legislatively so we can ensure they can do their jobs effectively. Thank you to Reps. Kristin Marcell and K.C. Tomlinson, as well as the testifiers, for hosting this hearing.”
In response to this uptick in crime, the Bucks County GOP delegation, along with State Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) have introduced two legislative packages focused on crime. The first package focuses on mandatory jail time for illegally possessing a firearm, cracking down on porch pirates, reducing catalytic converter robberies, increasing penalties for gun store robberies, increased penalties for street racing, and enhanced charges for rioters. The second package focuses exclusively on punishment for rioters and looters, which has seen an uptick in the Philadelphia area itself over the last two years.
Representative Kristin Marcell
178th Legislative District
Representative KC Tomlinson
Pennsylvania House of Representatives