This was originally posted by Philadelphia Free Press. You can find the original piece here http://philadelphiafreepress.com/philadelphia-inquirer-seems-to-want-to-keep-public-notice-from-the-public-p7318-1.htm

Wed, May 23, 2018

By Jim Haigh

Special to the University City Review

A few weeks ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a deep dive into the fascinating domain of public notice. This is advertising that is required by law to be published in a newspaper, and is generally paid for by a governmental entity or stakeholders in a legal proceeding. The object of the INKY’s attention was the notice required for Sheriff Sales, and they took the tone of righteous watchdog in bashing both the Sheriff -- and all publications not named Inquirer or Daily News (or Legal Intelligencer) -- for bringing public notice to the public.

Readers of “Sheriff sale ads: A bonanza for the politically connected in Philly” can be excused for coming away with a sense of waste, fraud, abuse and dirty dealings. Because that was the obvious intent of the inflammatory headline, dramatic prose and sidebars on spending by the individual media outlet. But while INKY readers can be excused, the paper cannot: it was a self-serving, misleading and otherwise undemocratic smear job on both competitors and public notice.

A more accurate headline would read: “As INKY circulation shrinks, raises ad rates, Sheriff seeks more outlets to notify public, boost sales,” because that is, in fact what is really going on. A legitimate investigation into government malfeasance would enumerate harms, and would also be transparent in revealing any conflicts of interest held by the journalistic enterprise. The Inquirer failed horrifically on both counts. They failed to report that actual Sheriff Sale revenues have gone up dramatically with public notice being shared with more of the public. They failed to reveal the extent to which their far-ranging public notice monopoly is a “bonanza” to their bottom line -- and that they have directly lobbied against reforms that would bring more notice to more of the public.

As it turns out, the Sheriff’s decision to do what businesses do in the private sector -- treat advertising as an investment -- resulted in a “bonanza” in collections, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Here’s the money quote from PGN publisher Mark Segal in his blistering rebuttal to the hit piece, “The Inquirer did not make clear that from 2012 to 2017, since the expansion of multi-cultural advertising and changes in the Sheriff’s office, the collection of delinquent taxes and fees from the Sheriff’s office rose from $27 million to $61 million. According to the Sheriff’s office, $248.9 million has been contributed to the city tax roles since 2013.” So for all the facts and figures uncovered, strung together with innuendo of fraud and belittlement of loyal readers of all hometown papers not owned by Philadelphia Media Network, how can anyone believe they somehow missed the bigger, inconvenient truth: more notice to more of the public leads to better results?

When the blowback subsides, the INKY hatchet job on Sheriff Sale advertising will probably just be a blip on the longer arc of pay-to-read newspapers attacking rivals seeking to compete for legal advertising and public notice. While Sheriffs have discretion to operate more like the private sector in their advertising planning, the vast majority of local government bodies -- cities, boroughs, townships, counties -- can only advertise in a paid subscription model newspaper. Across our Commonwealth, community papers that have been delivered free to every neighbor in town for generations are not an option for official public notice, mandated by law to be published and paid for with local tax dollars. This paper, along with its trade association, the Mid-Atlantic Community Papers Association, have fought long and hard to change the law last modified in 1976. But in the face of logic, economics, proven results like the Philly Sheriff’s -- and in spite of the downward spiral of paid circulation -- publications including the Inquirer have been able to convince state legislators that public notice law dating back to Jimmy Carter’s peanut whistle is still in the public’s best interest.

Stay tuned....

Jim Haigh

Advocate for Local Media & Small Business

Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office Collects $61 Million In Delinquent City Taxes in 2017-18

$250 Million In Delinquent Taxes Have Been Returned Between 2013 and 2017

PHILADELPHIA —Today, Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams testified at Philadelphia Budget Hearings, telling council members that the Sheriff’s Office collected and returned $61.3 million dollars in delinquent taxes and fees to the City general fund for The School District of Philadelphia and other city operations. In conjunction, the Sheriff’s office released an annual report of Sheriff Office activity, which accumulated the total of delinquent tax revenues, returned to the city treasury in the past five years. Since 2013, the Sheriff’s Office has generated nearly $250 million in revenues for the City. Part of this revenue is apportioned to the School District of Philadelphia. The Sheriff is the largest collector of delinquent taxes for the City.

“In the coming year, the office will pay to the City nearly three times our cost,” said the Sheriff’s budget testimony. More than $32 million will come from the collection of delinquent taxes and $13 million will come from delinquent water and gas charges. Other estimated earnings of $12 million will result from fees for various legal services for servicing writs and court orders and a$3.5 million worth of reimbursements from banks and attorneys.

The $61 million dollars in 2017-18 taxes and fees is nearly three times the cost of the operation of the Sheriff’s Office. The proposed budget for the 2018-2019 Fiscal Year is $24.5 million. It supports 408 employees including 314 uniform personnel. 54% or $596,000 is allocated for transporting and provisions for 87,030 prisoners in the care of the Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff’s Deputies now secure City Hall; training was completed for a new 40 officer warrant squad and both the bicycle and K9 units were expanded. Sheriff’s deputies served 4,412 warrants and approximately 300 Protection From Abuse orders. The Sheriff identified and returned a record $3.3 million dollars in excess recovery funds to individuals who lost their homes to foreclosure or tax delinquency.

Outreach and advertising served to greatly increase the number of participants in 4 monthly sheriff sales. The office conducted 36 seminars teaching citizens how to buy a property through Sheriff Sale. The attendance at these seminars has increased sharply, indicating more demand for properties and interest in this method of purchase. This year, 19,919 properties were ordered to Sheriff Sales; ultimately 5,936 properties were sold, others were stayed or postponed.

The Sheriff has also committed resources to a critical public safety outreach initiative: the office has distributed 5000 gunlocks to Philadelphia citizens in an effort to prevent childhood gun accidents in our homes.

Click here to download the 2017 Sheriff's Annual Report.

SHERIFF JEWELL WILLIAMS TESTIFIES BEFORE CITY COUNCIL ON HIS BUDGET.   Photo Credit:  Willard Rozier​

The Safe Return program is for Philadelphians who have outstanding warrants who want to address them and receive favorable consideration by the courts. this event takes place on May 1, 2, and 3 at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church (2800 West Cheltenham Ave) from 10AM to 3PM
 
Screen Shot 2018 04 27 at 11.01.23 AM

2017 ANNUAL REPORT

Jewell Williams, Sheriff

Established when Pennsylvania was a colony, the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office protects both

every citizen of Philadelphia.

The Office of the Sheriff is the enforcement arm of the Philadelphia Court system. Deputy

Sheriff’s transport and guard prisoners, enforce warrants, and secure our seven Court

buildings. The Sheriff does not work at the direction of the Mayor, City Council or civil

government, but rather at the direction of Courts of Law. As such, the Sheriff is a neutral part

of the justice system. Only by Court order can the Sheriff conduct sales of mortgage and tax

delinquent property, confiscate property such as weapons, and enforce writs such as protection

from domestic abuse orders. In this capacity, the Sheriff is Philadelphia’s largest collector of

delinquent city taxes and fees. As certified law enforcement officers, Deputy Sheriffs take on

special assignments on behalf of the Government and Courts of the City and County of

Philadelphia.

PROTECTING THE COURTS AND THE PUBLIC

___________________________________________________________________

87, 030 prisoners transported and protected.

4,412 Warrants served and 5,128 arrests made.

City Hall being secured by Deputies.

Sheriff’s Bicycle Patrols Expanded to 15 Units.

96,880 sandwiches served to prisoners in Court lock up unit.

___________________________________________________________________

The Sheriff is responsible for transporting and guarding prisoners outside of their assigned jail

or prison. In 2017, none of the 87,030 prisoners in the Sheriff’s custody escaped. The number

of prisoners assigned to the Sheriff dropped by 6,000 from the previous year because of a

decline in crime in Philadelphia and because the State now transports its prisoners to a single

site, instead of forcing the Sheriff to go to multiple sites across the State. In 2017 Sheriff’s

Deputies traveled throughout the country to bring 165 defendants back to Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia’ Sheriff’s Office remains one of America’s best operated security and prisoner

transport systems.

At the request of the City and Court System, the Sheriff completed the assumption and

training of the forty officer warrant unit. In 2017 5,128 arrests were made by Deputies

enforcing warrants. Of 10,205 warrants issued the Sheriff sought to serve 93%. In the year

criminal 5,128 arrests were made. All 582 court orders were served. Arrests for non-payment

of child support reached 1,072 and 108 arrests for were for domestic violence.

With the Administration and the Courts, the Sheriff is establishing stronger security measures

in City Hall. The thirty four (34) City Hall courtrooms, Council facilities and other city-county

offices will be protected by Sheriff’s Deputies.

To prevent the malicious use of cell phones in criminal court rooms

Sheriff’s personnel collect and return all cell phones from visitors to the Criminal Justice

Center. Since the program started in June, no cell phones have been reported missing.

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 patrols has increased to fifteen (15) bikes.

The Sheriff created a three (3) dog K9 unit to provide protection and additional specialized

detection services. The K9 units are also assigned to special events in the City.

SERVING THE TAXPAYER

___________________________________________________________________

$61.3 million in delinquent taxes and fees collected for the City in FY 17.

$15 million in escheat funds sent to the City.

19,919 properties put into Sheriff Sales in FY 17.

5935 properties were sold in FY17.

Five Sales now held each month

Time to obtain a deed after a Sale reduced from 120 to 21 days.

36 seminars and 177 community meetings

5,200 Free gun locks distributed

$1.2 million in new deed preparation revenue generated for the City

___________________________________________________________________

The Sheriff conducts five monthly public 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 treated fairly.

In 2017 19,919 properties were brought to foreclosure or tax sales. This was 7,800 less than in

2016 because of tighter requirements on lenders seeking foreclosure and a decrease in the

number and value of tax delinquent properties.

In 2016 the Sheriff sold 5,935 properties, turning over $61.295 million in delinquent taxes and

fees to the City and its agencies. This is more than double the $27 million collected when the

Sheriff first took office.

Funds Collected and Paid to the City

FY2017: $61,295,487

FY2016: $61,053,683

FY2015: $64,988,767

FY2014: $43,161,103

FY2013: $28,414,467

Sheriff Sales are more than devices for collecting delinquent taxes and fees, because they

convert derelict properties into tax producing homes and businesses. A deed and possession

of a sold property must be done as quickly as possible. 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 2017 the average time a purchaser waited for a deed after final payment was twenty one

(21) days.

In addition foreclosure and tax sales return delinquent properties to the City’s tax rolls. In

2017 the Sheriff analyzed sales from 2016 and 2015 to determine if properties sold by the

Sheriff stayed current on their taxes. The study showed 73% of properties sold in the 2016

sample and 67% of properties sold in the 2015 sample were current on their 2017 real estate taxes.

Unclaimed funds are held by the Sheriff for eighteen months after which they are transferred

or escheated to the City. In FY 17, $15,025,680 of these escheated funds was sent to the City.

This was not done prior to Sheriff Williams taking office.

To relieve the taxpayer of the cost of paying private companies to prepare deeds, the Sheriff’s

staff now prepares deeds for properties sold at Sheriff Sales. This provides the City $1 million

in additional revenue.

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 allow thirty five Deputies to be hired to

secure City Hall.

To make the Sheriff Sale procedure open and understandable to everyone, the Sheriff

conducts seminars on how to take part in Sheriff Sales. In 2017 twenty four English and 12

Spanish language seminars were held attracting 2,424 participants.

As part of his community outreach program, the Sheriff has participated in 177 community

meetings and events. Each month the Sheriff hosts a radio program on WURD FM to discuss

Sheriff Sales, court and community issues.

To promote gun safety and prevent accidental shootings by children, the Sheriff has

distributed 5,200 free gun locks.

TECHNOLOGY

___________________________________________________________________

Management system upgraded.

217,000 unique visitors used the Sheriff’s website in 2017.

1 million pages of data were reviewed.

___________________________________________________________________

Effectively scheduling and managing deputies, civilian employees, and 20,000 Sheriff Sale

properties requires specialized computer operations. In 2013 the Sheriff installed a new data

management (the Judicial Enforcement Writ Execution Legal Ledger). While computer systems

are often allowed to become obsolete, the Sheriff requires a continuous upgrade of servers,

switches and firewalls as well as improved disaster recovery protection. In 2017 the website

calculator was upgraded so citizens could calculate the cost of Sheriff services.

In 2017 the Sheriffs website was visited by 217,000 unique visitors looking for information

about the Sheriff’s operations. This is an increase of 22,000 visits from the previous year. The

most popular feature is property information including maps and photographs of each listing

and the status of properties from the sale to recording the deed.

Defendants Asset Recovery Team

___________________________________________________________________

$2.3 million refunded to 127 people owed money in 2017.

Over $13.5 million refunded since the Sheriff Williams took office.

__________________________________________________________________

Upon taking office in 2012, the Sheriff sought out former property owners who were owed

money from a sale. Quite often a winning bid exceeds the amount of debt on a property sold

as Sheriff Sale. In the past little or no effort was made to turn the surplus proceeds over to the

previous owner. The Sheriff established the Defendants Asset Recovery Team (D.A.R.T.) to find

those owed money. In 2017 D.A.R.T. returned $2.3 million, bringing the total refunded since

2012 to over $ 13.5 million.

This was written in English. For a translation, visit Google Translate and select your language.

January 11, 2018—In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, many Philadelphians stepped forward to provide aid to the victims of the devastated island of Puerto Rico. On Martin Luther King Day, January 15, 2018, a group of these local heroes will be honored with the Martin Luther King Community Service Award at Zion Baptist Church’s annual King Day Worship service in North Philadelphia.

Read more ...

This article was written in English. To translate, please visit Google Translate and select your language.

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Sheriff’s deputies fanned out across five neighborhoods in Philadelphia to hand out 1,000 free gun safety locks, while dispensing some advice on keeping children away from them.

At the corner of 52nd and Market Streets one passerby, Symir, repeated the words of Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams, “If you have a gun, you need a lock.”

“People are leaving their guns in the houses and kids find them. They’re not locked up, and kids get shot,” said Symir.

He heard about the three-year-old girl down the street who recently shot herself after finding a loaded, unlocked gun belonging to her father.

“Yeah man, if they were locked up, the little girl couldn’t have shot herself. Facts, facts, they need to first speak to the child and let them know don’t touch it, and why they shouldn’t touch it,” Symir said.

Deputy Sheriff Derrick Murphy says their aim is to help adults secure and safely store their firearms.

“We give them a little class on how to use it, and secure their weapon,” said Murphy.

The sheriff’s department estimates one in three handguns are kept loaded and unlocked in homes, and most kids know where their parents keep guns.

Find the article here: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2017/12/15/gun-safety-locks-philly/

(This was written in English. For a full translation, visit http://translate.google.com and select your language.)

Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office Conducts Holiday Gunlock Giveaway

Deputies distribute safety locks to prevent children from being wounded and/or killed in accidental shootings involving unsecured firearms

WHAT:   Citywide Holiday Gunlock Giveaways

WHO:   Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office Deputies

WHEN:   December 15th 2017 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

WHERE:            Broad & Chestnut Streets

52nd & Market Streets

22nd Street & Lehigh Avenue

Bridge & Pratt Streets

Broad Street & Olney Avenue

24th Street & Oregon Avenue

Background

Sheriff’s deputies will fan out across the city to pass out gun safety locks to Philadelphia residents and gun safety pledge cards to children to make them aware of the danger of firearms in general, and specifically unsecured firearms.   The gunlocks are free. 

Guns kill nearly 1300 American children every year.  In West Philadelphia, a three-year old girl shot herself in November after finding a loaded, unlocked gun belonging to her father.  It was the third accidental shooting involving children in the previous three months, including a three year old boy who accidently shot his uncle after finding a gun in the family car in Center City, and an 11 year old boy shot himself in the face in South Philadelphia.  

A 2014 report from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute cites the US General Accounting Office estimate that 31% of accidental firearms deaths could be prevented if gun owners used two devices:  a gunlock and a loading indicator.

“We know that some of these tragic events could have been prevented by making sure these firearms are secured and stored safely,” said Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams. “If you have a gun, you need a lock”.

The facts are: 

  •      1 in 3 homes with kids have guns
  •      In 2014, 2,549 children died by gunshot; 13.6 million were injured
  •      For children, 89% of unintentional shooting deaths occur in the home--most from playing with loaded guns in their parents absence
  •      1 in 3 handguns is kept loaded and unlocked and most kids know where their parents keep guns
  •      More than 75% of 1st and 2nd graders know where parents keep their guns and 36% admit they have handled the firearms. 
  •      80% of guns used in youth suicide attempts were kept in the homes of parents, relatives or friends. 

(Statistics from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Center for Injury Research and Prevention.  For full report, go to

https://injury.research.chop.edu/violence-prevention-initiative/types-violence-involving-youth/gun-violence/gun-violence-facts-and#.WifpC0yZPdQ )

The Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with City Council President Darrell Clarke, have been giving away free gunlocks throughout 2016 and 2017.  No questions asked.  No ID required.  Philadelphia residents can pick up free gunlocks at the Sheriff’s Office any weekday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., 100 S. Broad Street on the 5th floor.

For more information call 215-686-3572 or visit www.phillysheriff.com.