The Justice Wire
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The Justice Wire

A Conversation with Neveil & Wynne of the Gun Crimes Strategies & Prevention Collaborative: Northwest District Team

Assistant District Attorneys Alison Neveil and Christian Wynne

The Gun Crime Strategies and Prevention Collaborative is a partnership between the DAO, the Philadelphia Police Department, community members, and elected officials that focuses on reducing gun violence, improving data sharing among law enforcement entities, and ensuring that people who commit dangerous and violent crime are appropriately prosecuted. Two Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs) are assigned to each of the six police districts in the city; they conduct preliminary hearings, bench trials, and jury trials involving gun violence.

Gun Crime Prevention Collaborative ADAs Alison Neveil and Christian Wynne are assigned to work on non-fatal shooting cases in the Northwest section of the city. Both Philadelphia natives, their love for the city they’ve always called home drives the work that they do each and every day. “I think we have a leg up being from Philly. We understand the neighborhoods,” ADA Wynne says.

ADA Wynne stresses the importance of learning from and having meaningful conversations with law enforcement partners and community members.

“A few weeks ago we met with 39th Police District Captain Jinaldi and we all stood at the street corner and spoke with community members, and I think that was a really powerful day,” she says. “Having us be out there shows [the community] that the DA’s office does care, especially after violent crimes have taken place.”

Both Neveil and Wynne believe in the importance of exercising humility in forging stronger relationships with the community and police. They also look forward to strengthening relationships with other branches of law enforcement, such as probation services.

Opening lines of dialogue are especially important because members of the Collaborative have started doing what are known as “custom notifications,” which ADA Wynne describes as a “marriage [between] people − the ADA, formerly incarcerated individuals, and police.” The purpose of these custom notifications is to take a preventative approach to addressing crime before it happens. People identified by authorities as being at risk of committing violent crime are connected to resources to redirect them away from criminal behavior, serving as a “time out” for these individuals to stabilize their lives.

“I’m trying to tell you where you’re headed, and we hope that these resources can be of use for you. But if not, your case will be prosecuted,” ADA Wynne explains of this interventionist approach.

The prosecutors see building trust with communities as critical to the success of the Collaborative. For ADA Wynne, that requires in part a tacit recognition of the damage caused by mass incarceration: “It would be disingenuous to not acknowledge the harm that prosecution has caused. We can acknowledge what the history was and move forward in a positive way.”

Increased trust between communities and law enforcement, ADAs Neveil and Wynne believe, will lead to more witnesses coming forward to report crime as well as testify in court. “They have hope in the process and they know that those delivering justice care about the people, deeply,” ADA Neveil says.

The prosecutors are learning from each other, too. ADA Wynne admires her colleague’s skill in gently encouraging victims to come forward in reporting crime. “[A lot of the victims] don’t want to come in to give a statement. [Neveil] has a great demeanor with victims and can work with victims who may need more handholding,” she says.

ADA Wynne uses her own past experience working with the families of homicide victims to inform the work she does as a prosecutor. “It was really eye-opening. [There] were so many Black and brown boys. I think there was a space missing for people who looked like me to be there working on behalf of the Commonwealth.”

ADAs Neveil and Wynne see trauma from violence, frustration, and poverty linked to unemployment, coupled with petty feuds, as primary drivers of gun violence. “It is heartbreaking to me, it feels personal. I think there is a certain restlessness happening in the city. It’s like a perfect storm,” ADA Wynne says. “People are experiencing pandemic exhaustion, people are protesting, people are afraid, people don’t have outlets.”

Despite these challenges, the prosecutors remain largely optimistic. “I want the Collaborative to succeed because I love this city and I love this job,” she says.

Alison Neveil is originally from Northeast Philadelphia, and is a graduate of Temple University Beasley School of Law. Neveil began working for the DAO as an ADA in November 2017, where she was assigned to the MC unit. In November 2018, Neveil joined the Major Trials Unit before being reassigned to the Gun Crimes Strategies & Prevention Collaborative in 2020.

Christian Wynne was born and raised in West Philadelphia and is a graduate of Villanova University Charles Widener School of Law. Prior to coming to the DAO in 2018, Wynne worked as a Trial Coordinator for Families of Murder Victims (a program with the Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia), serving as a Liaison between the families of murder victims and the DAO.

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Philadelphia DAO

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is committed to seeking fair and equal justice for 1.5 million residents, while upholding Constitutional rights.