December 02, 2006

Effective Policing

This sort of approach would probably be equally effective in Milwaukee, or at least it would be if we had a gang problem here.


The story I linked has aged off the accessible portion of the newspaper's website, and I have put the text into the extended entry.

After more than a year with a beefed-up gang unit, the District Attorney's
Office has boosted the number of gang-related case filings and prison
sentences, according to new statistics released Friday.

San Bernardino County prosecutors filed 48 percent more gang-related cases during the first quarter of the current fiscal year, which began July 1. This is the first time prosecutors could compare year-over-year numbers.

In its report, the District Attorney's Office said it posted 313 gang filings from July 1 to Sept. 30, compared with 211 filings during the same period last year.

Prosecutors also saw an increase countywide in state prison sentences issued to convicted felons, from 99 to 155, and an increase in the number of years in state prison issued, from 528 to 828 years.

But even as law enforcement has waged war on street violence, the county's estimated 16,000 gang members have fought back.

"I think, generally, gang members are more violent and aggressive, a little bit more fearless than they used to be," said Cheryl Kersey, a lead prosecutor in the district attorney's Central Division Hardcore Gang and Career Criminal Unit.

When the District Attorney's Office began to seriously track gang crimes, it only had six specially trained gang prosecutors. Today, that number has jumped to 14, Kersey said.

That translates into more deputy district attorneys who know how to effectively prosecute defendants using special gang enhancements that can add more prison time to sentences, officials said.

District Attorney Michael A. Ramos said the numbers speak for themselves - an increase in each area.

The number of gang enhancements found true was 44 in the first quarter of fiscal year 2006-07, compared with 30 in the previous year.

Juries also found 11 defendants guilty compared with four in the same period last year.

"This means our war against gangs is having an impact," Ramos said in a statement. "We will continue to keep the heat up on the gangbangers to let them know they are not welcome in San Bernardino County."

Since the beefed-up gang unit was formed on July 1, 2005, prosecutors have filed a total of 1,325 gang cases, resulting in 574 prison commitments that amounted to 3,100 years in state prison, including nine life terms, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Additionally, 176 gang enhancements have been found true and 32 defendants have been found guilty in jury trials.

Stronger enforcement from prosecutors also helps cities, such as San Bernardino, that are putting forth an exhaustive effort to prevent gang violence.

"It is important that people who are found to have violated the law are held accountable for that," said Jim Morris, San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris' son and chief of staff.

That accountability, Jim Morris said, "is critical to a successful crime-fighting strategy."

The mayor won election earlier this year after running on a platform that included a multipronged plan to reduce violence with a balance of suppression and prevention.

"All those combined efforts are having an effect," Jim Morris said.

Still, prosecutors are anxious to keep up the momentum, calling for more manpower and resources, including investigators and support staff.

Some prosecutors are handling as many as 40 felony cases each, while others have 10 homicides apiece - some of them with multiple defendants, according to Kersey.

"We're managing right now, but I would hope that we'll have more deputies to be able to spread some of that workload around," Kersey said.

Posted by triticale at December 2, 2006 07:55 AM | TrackBack
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