Chester County District Attorney Joseph Carroll said recent violent crime, including Monday's apparent home invasion shooting, has put the city's crime level at the highest he's ever seen.Police are investigating what appears to be the area's third home-invasion shooting in less than a week. And Carroll said this summer's violence is worse than the days of the Young Guns gang activity in the 1990s.
"This is an unprecedented level of violence," Carroll said Monday.
Carroll's comments came less than a day after a male, who police have not yet identified, was shot about 12:15 a.m. Monday inside a home in the 500 block of Coates Street. The incident was possibly a home invasion, police said, however investigators had not yet interviewed the victim Monday due to his injuries.
The victim was shot once in the jaw area, police said. He was taken to Brandywine Hospital and later transferred to Lancaster General Hospital, where police said he was in critical condition.
Police had no suspect information to release Monday afternoon except that the shooter used a semi-automatic handgun.
Also Monday night, shots were fired into a house in the 500 block of Olive Street, police said. No one was injured.
Coatesville area gun activity, for July alone, has taken the lives of two and injured four others. Five of the six victims were shot inside their homes. Local police and Chester County detectives continue to investigate the incidents. No arrests have been made.
Coatesville Lt. Julius Canale said detectives are looking into whether Monday's shooting is linked to any other recent incidents.
"You have to look into things like that to see if anything is connected to other home invasion types of crimes," Canale said. "But there hasn't been anything to establish any link to any of these yet."
Carroll said criminals have become sort of "copy cats" and developed a "no rules" type of violence. The local trend for criminal's, Carroll said, is to do their shooting inside homes as opposed to what the Young Guns did - shoot their targets outside on the street.
"This is the way different groups are executing their violence," Carroll said. "This is the way they're going to do their shootings now."
This summer's firearm crime, Carroll said, is worse because innocent bystanders, such as close friends and family, have been hit with the bullets.
One of the home invasions occurred Friday in Valley. Kaijo Waan Hughes, 23, was shot about 1:45 a.m. in his home in the 100 block of Irish Lane. After the incident, Valley Police Chief Joe Friel said violent crime is on the rise.
"It's really concerning," Friel said. "I believe that violent crime has spiked in the last couple of months."
After two people were killed at gunpoint inside a city home July 6, Coatesville Police Chief William Matthews characterized the incident as one of the worst crimes.
"Any time you have a crime - a double homicide inside someone's house - that is, in my opinion, one of the most horrific crimes that can take place. We are going to work day and night to make sure the person responsible is brought to justice," Matthews said.
The increase in violent crime, Carroll said, is partly due to the season. Criminal activity is known to grow across the board when weather is warm. The summer is also when juveniles are out of school. Carroll said it would not be surprising to learn many of the crimes are being committed by high-school aged youths or people slightly older.
To stop the activity, Carroll said the city needs to hire more officers and pay overtime to current officers. Carroll suggested city officials make a withdrawal from its trust fund to cover the added expense. The fund, set up after the city sold the water authority, holds about $21 million, but the administration has promised not to touch it.
"In my opinion, even if they have to dip into the water authority fund, they should do it," Carroll said. "All of the other efforts - redevelopment, economic measures - none of that's going to happen if you can't keep residents safe."
Additionally, Carroll said his office would try to offer additional resources. County detectives are supporting the ongoing investigations. And, he said, state police have been assisting by patrolling in the city.
Carroll also called for residents to help police by ditching the "stop snitching" mentality. Carroll said residents need to start telling police what they know about the recent crimes.
"There are probably 150 criminals in that city who are destroying that city. We need the other 12,000 to stand up," Carroll said.
Anyone with information regarding the Coatesville incidents can contact police at 610-384-2300.
Anyone with information regarding the South Coatesville incident can contact police at 610-384-3500.
Anyone with information regarding the Valley incident can contact police at 610-384-8133.
Anyone with information regarding the Caln incident can contact police at 610-383-1821.