United States Attorney William M. McSwain Announces Launch of Violent Crime Prevention and Public Awareness Campaign
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced the launch of a public awareness campaign aimed at discouraging violent crime, specifically robbery and gun crimes, throughout the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The campaign employs targeted messaging to educate and inform the public that crimes committed with a gun can often violate federal laws, and therefore carry stiffer potential penalties than crimes prosecuted under local and state statutes. One component of the campaign is a series of public service announcements (PSAs) that will run on television, radio, and streaming platforms urging individuals to rethink committing violent crimes that could be federal offenses.
For example, under a federal statute called the Hobbs Act, passed by the United States Congress in 1946, it is a federal crime to use force or threats of force to rob a commercial business – like a pharmacy, a convenience store, or even a corner market. It does not matter whether the robber steals thousands of dollars from the cash register or nothing more than a pack of cigarettes. Because these stores operate in “interstate commerce,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office can take these cases federally. And that is exactly what it will do to get justice for the victims in these cases – store owners and their patrons who live in fear in their neighborhoods.
Violent crime, particularly gun crime, has become a pervasive issue in Philadelphia and other parts of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. For example, in 2019, 2,181 robberies with a gun occurred in Philadelphia. So far in 2020, there have been 219 homicides, with the past two weekends in July becoming particularly violent. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has committed to a strong response to violent crime in this District. Part of that response has been to increase the number of violent crime prosecutions: in 2019, the Violent Crime Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged 53% more cases than in the previous year. Another part of the Office’s response is deterrence: the primary goal of this public awareness campaign is to put potential offenders and the community on notice and reduce violent crime throughout the District. The campaign will appear in Philadelphia and its surrounding collar counties, and will also reach audiences in Lancaster, Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties.
The campaign will focus on informing the public of the legal consequences of committing a federal violent crime and thereby discourage potential perpetrators of violence and gun crimes by raising awareness of the potential for federal jail time. The slogan “Fed Crime Gets Fed Time,” accompanied by #FedCrimeGetsFedTime, will be deployed across social media platforms, traditional media, and public service announcements on television and radio in communities throughout the District’s nine counties.
“When criminals think there are no consequences for their actions, serious violent crime rises. That is the root of the crisis we are facing in Philadelphia today,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Anyone who commits a federal violent crime in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania will feel the full force of the law. My message to would-be criminals is simple: put the guns down and think about your future.”