Safe Streets is Doing its Job
04/01/2011
The Daily Times

View Clip

When it comes to reducing crime and making the streets safer, the "it takes a village" concept can be applied to the advantage of everyone -- except those committing criminal acts. Wicomico County's Safe Streets initiative, as developed in the areas of law enforcement and criminal justice, is part intelligence operation and part collaboration. Modeled after a similar program in Annapolis (which is in turn patterned after Baltimore's successful Violence Prevention Initiative), Safe Streets has accomplished something that has been talked about for years --open communication and cooperation among law enforcement agencies, the State's Attorney's Office, and parole and probation departments.

Central to the initiative is a Top 25 Prosecution List, which identifies the most dangerous violent and repeat offenders. The list is developed collaboratively through monthly meetings that include representatives from the State's Attorney's Office, police agencies, agencies that track known criminals (especially suspected gang members, even if they have not yet been arrested), and the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Those on the list are tracked and flagged. The arrest of an individual on the list triggers alerts so everyone in the system who will have a hand in the detention, prosecution, incarceration and tracking is aware of the case and status. This allows for a focused effort to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law --maximum bails, longest sentences and automatic notification of probation and parole officers upon release. More serious offenders may be referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office, where those arrested may be subjected to harsher consequences.

With virtually everyone involved in law enforcement, criminal justice, the penal system and parole and probation agencies in the loop, these most dangerous criminals are more likely to remain off our streets for a longer period of time. When these criminals are free, their activities are more closely monitored and tracked than they were prior to the January launch of Safe Streets.

In the initiative's first three months, 12 of the 25 individuals listed on the list have been arrested and met with maximum penalties and bail amounts; of those, seven were referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Safe Streets has had an impressive beginning, displaying for us the value of cooperation and offering hope that our city may soon witness a renewed sense of security among its residents and visitors.