2016 ANNUAL REPORT
The Office of the Sheriff is the enforcement agency of the Philadelphia Court system. The Sheriff transports and guards prisoners, enforces warrants, and secures seven Court buildings and everyone who uses those facilities. The Sheriff also conducts judicial sales of property as ordered by the Courts. In this capacity, the Sheriff is the largest collector of delinquent city taxes and fees. Court orders concerning the confiscation of weapons, protection from domestic abuse and orders concerning property and human rights are executed by the Sheriff‘s Deputies. Finally as fully certified law enforcement officers, Deputy Sheriffs take on special assignments on behalf of the City and County of Philadelphia.
PROTECTING THE COURTS AND THE PUBLIC
- 93,750 prisoners transported and protected.
- Warrant Unit Deputies now certified by the State.
- 4,412 Warrants served and arrests made.
- Plan to Secure City Hall
- Sheriff’s Bicycle Patrols Expanded to 14 Units
The Sheriff is responsible for transporting and guarding prisoners outside of their assigned jail or prison. In 2016, none of 93,750 prisoners in the Sheriff’s custody escaped. The Philadelphia’ Sheriff’s Office remains one of America’s best operated security and prisoner transport systems.
In 2016, the Sheriff’s Office finished absorbing and training the forty (40) person Warrant Unit. At the request of the City and Court System, the Sheriff took over the unit in 2015, and a year later 4,412 arrests were made by Deputies and Warrant Officers enforcing warrants. Arrests for non-payment of child support reached 908 and 640 arrests for protection of abuse cases were made.
Under the Sheriff, warrant officers are now being certified by the State at Penn State University. The Sheriff intends for the Warrant Officers to be a potential pool of experienced applicants as Deputy Sheriff positions open up.
With the support of the Administration and the Courts, the Sheriff initiated stronger security measures in City Hall. Currently the thirty four (34) City Hall courtrooms, Council facilities and other city-county offices are protected by a small private guard service. City Hall and the people who use it require better protection.
Fully securing City Hall will require thirty five (35) additional Deputy Sheriffs. These positions were added to the current operating budget with a plan to pay for them without using tax money. The Sheriff proposed, and the Mayor and Council agreed to raise fees for Sheriff’s services. These fees have not been adjusted in over twenty years. A discussion of the status of this effort is continued below.
During his first year in Office in 2012, the Sheriff created a three (3) unit bicycle squad to patrol parameters of the courts and swiftly move Deputies between trouble spots. Because of the success of these units, the number of bicycles has increased to fourteen (14) bikes.
Also 2013 the Sheriff created a three (3) dog K9 unit to provide protection and additional specialized detection services. The K9 units are also successful and their operations have been extended to special events in the City.
The Sheriff’s Office was fully involved with the security surrounding Pope Francis’ visit to the City and the Democratic Convention. In addition to protecting City court facilities, Sheriff’s Deputies provided crowd control and arrestee transport.
Deputies were ordered to provide peace keeping patrols during two labor disputes during the past year. Because participants in such disputes are responsible for the cost of the Sheriff’s service, this activity generated $454,000 in additional revenue to the City.
In 2016 the Philadelphia Bar Association awarded the Sheriff’s Office the Hank Czajkowski Award for its professionalism and outstanding contribution to the administration of justice.
SERVING THE TAXPAYER
- $64 million in delinquent taxes and fees collected for the City.
- 27800 properties put in Sheriff Sales
- 7026 properties sold
- Five Sales now held each month
- Time to obtain a deed after a Sale reduced from 120 to as little as 15 days.
- 35 seminars and 177 community meetings
- 2,500 Free gun locks distributed
- $1.2 million in new deed preparation revenue generated for the City
The Sheriff conducts five monthly auctions of properties for non-payment of taxes or mortgages. Initiated by the City or the lender, Sheriff Sales are conducted by Court Order so that the bidder, the lender and the debtor, are fairly treated.
In 2016 the Sheriff sold 7,026 properties, returning $64 million in delinquent taxes and fees to the City and its agencies. This is an increase of $37 million since the Sheriff assumed office, when in 2012 only $27 million was collected and transferred to the City.
Sheriff Sales do more than collect delinquent taxes and fees for the City, since they convert unproductive properties into tax producing homes and businesses. The time required to sell a property and prepare a new deed is important to the buyer. In 2013 it took up to one hundred and twenty (120) days or more before a sold property was deeded over to its new owner.
In 2016 the average time a purchaser waited for a deed after final payment was fifteen (15) days.
To reduce the backlog of properties scheduled for delinquent and tax sale, the Sheriff has added an additional monthly tax delinquency sale, bringing the total to five a month.
To relieve burdening the taxpayer with the cost of preparing Sales, the Sheriff’s staff now prepares deeds of properties sold at Sheriffs Sales. Instead of paying a private title company to prepare the deeds, over $1 million in deed preparation costs is paid to the City.
On behalf of the City, the Sheriff charges fees for various services such as writ service or weapons confiscation. Because these fees have not been adjusted in twenty years, City Council increased them in 2016. The increased revenue will go toward hiring thirty five Deputies to secure City Hall. However as noted above, the City Law Department opposed the increase and refused to defend the City against any challenge to the increase.
The Sheriff is prepared to implement the new fees and secure City Hall as soon as the dispute with the Law Department is resolved.
To make the Sheriff’s Sale procedure open to everyone, the Sheriff conducted twenty four English and eleven Spanish language seminars on how to take part in Sheriff Sales.
As part of his community outreach program, the Sheriff has participated in 177 community meetings. Each month the Sheriff hosts a radio program on WURD FM to discuss court and community issues. The estimated audience is over 6,500.
To promote gun safety and prevent accidental shootings by children, the Sheriff has distributed 2,500 free gun locks.
- Management system upgraded.
- 195,000 access Sheriff’s website.
Effectively scheduling and managing three hundred (300) deputies, fortyeight civilian employees, and 26,000 Sheriff Sale properties requires specialized computer operations. In 2013 the Sheriff installed a new computer system (the Judicial Enforcement Writ Execution Legal Ledger) that has been enhanced each year. J.E.W.E.L.L may be the most productive computer system in Philadelphia government.
In 2016, to schedule the forty (40) person warrant unit, a special module was added to the system, to monitor and schedule the warrant officers as they work throughout the city. The new module tracked over 6,600 warrants in 2016.
While computer systems are often allowed to age in place, the Sheriff has required a continuous upgrade of servers, switches and firewalls as well as improved disaster recovery protection.
In 2016 the Sheriffs website was visited by 195,000 visitors looking for information about the Sheriff’s operations. The Sheriff’s website provides detailed information and costs about each property. The most popular feature is information including maps and photographs on each listing and the status of properties as they complete the sales process up to deed recording.
DEFENDANTS ASSET RECOVERY TEAM
- $2.2 million refunded to people owed money in 2016.
- Over $10 million refunded since the Sheriff’s effort began.
Upon taking office, the Sheriff sought out former property owners who were owed money from the sale. Quite often a winning bid exceeded the amount of debt on a property sold as Sheriff Sale. In the past no effort was made to turn the extra proceeds over to the previous owner. The Sheriff established the Defendants Asset Recovery Team (D.A.R.T.) to find those owed money. In 2016 D.A.R.T. returned $2.2 million, bringing the total refunded since 2012 to over $10 million.