One on one with DA Seth Williams

December 29, 2010 8:31:54 PM PST
As we approach the end of 2010, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams is celebrating what he says has been a more successful first year in office than he imagined.

Seth Williams says even he is surprised by what his office has been able to accomplish in his first year and he credits, among others, his adoptive parents with helping him meet the challenges of the job.

Williams loves his job and today, 18 years after he started as an Assistant DA, he is proud and humbled by how the office has operated.

"We've been willing to work with people in a collaborative way, checking our egos at the door, just trying to improve the quality of justice for everyone in Philadelphia," Williams said.

His new community prosecution system which began last month has prosecutors assigned to cases geographically.

"Instead of getting cases from all over the city, they're only going to handle cases from specific neighborhoods, They'll get to know the names of business leaders, town watch groups, civic associations, and the clergy," Williams said. "They'll be working more closely with police, probation officers; they'll see the patterns in crime."

When Williams entered office, Philadelphia had one of the lowest conviction rates in the state, but today:

"More witnesses are coming to court, we're seeing improved conviction rates, I think what we're going to be seeing over time is that more people are going to be willing to cooperate with law enforcement," Williams said.

The opening of the first community action centers in Northern Liberties and West Oak Lane are free to taxpayers and make it easier for residents to seek victim's assistance or report a crime.

"There's not one block in Philadelphia where criminals outnumber the good people and we have to do all we can to empower those good folks," Williams said.

Williams says criticisms that his revamped charging unit, with 14 experienced trial attorneys, takes too long to bring charges in a case are unfounded. He says the unit has developed investigative protocols that have led to more thorough and accurate police work.

"Philadelphians want us to charge the right people with the right crime," Williams said.

He says cases of police brutality are now investigated and prosecuted much faster, but there is a lot more to do. Williams says in the last three decades in Pennsylvania, seven times the number of people have been incarcerated.

"But we're not seven times safer; we're putting a lot of non-violent people in jail," Williams said.

Changing that is one of his top priorities for the New Year.

Williams proudly displayed the pictures of 4 men in his office. All of the men, he says, have played an important role in his life: Martin Luther King, Barack Obama, Malcolm X, and his adoptive father, Rufus O. Williams, whose dedication to Philadelphia youth, he strives to replicate. He's grateful for the challenge he's been given.

"I'm very fortunate to be the district attorney in the city that I love and I try to make my city safer," Williams said.

Williams will begin a new program in 2011 called "The Choice is Yours," where first time, nonviolent offenders will get the help they need to avoid becoming repeat offenders.

He will also continue his efforts to reduce gun violence and truancy.


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