Public Safety & Homeland Security

Will $99,000 Help Deter Crime in St. Clair County?

Long-term cuts in law enforcement programs at all levels of government have placed a huge burden on the criminal justice system.

by Carolyn P. Smith, Belleville News-Democrat / June 14, 2017
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(TNS) - Illinois Criminal Justice Authority has awarded the St. Clair County State’s Attorney’s office a nearly $100,000 grant to help deter crime, according to State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly. The grant will be used to implement violence reduction strategies in St. Clair County.

The grant, worth $99,000, is built around a multi-disciplinary strategy of “focused deterrence” aimed at reducing the violence in communities in St. Clair County.

Kelly said long-term cuts in law enforcement programs at all levels of government have placed a huge burden on the criminal justice system.

“We have to fight for funds and seek new partnerships to combat the deeply entrenched patterns of violent crime that ultimately affect all communities in the region,” he said.

The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority awarded the Illinois Partnerships to Reduce Violent Crime grant to Kelly’s office to sustain an evidence-based deterrence strategy focused on gun violence and gun homicides.

“The effort will include an interagency enforcement group, including police, probation, parole, state and federal prosecutors and other relevant agencies, coordinated through the states attorney’s office,” Kelly said.

The effort, Kelly said, will include conducting research that will rely heavily on the field experience of police officers to identify key offenders and groups of offenders and the patterns and context of their behavior.

Kelly said special enforcement operations will be directed at those offenders and groups of offenders, such as using any and all legal tools (or levers) to sanction groups, matching those enforcement operations with direct services and the moral voices of affected communities.

Anyone known to law enforcement through being in the system and being identified in the community as someone who bears watching will be contacted. Kelly said they will be told “they are under particular scrutiny.”

“Acts such as shootings will get them special attention. They will learn what they can do to avoid enforcement action,” Kelly said. “This communication occurs in forums, notifications or call-ins in which offenders are invited or directed as part of probation or parole, to attend in-person meetings with law.

“The moral voice of the community will include local victims of gun violence and the families of the victims of gun violence as well as civic and religious leaders,” he added.

Many jurisdictions who’re implementing focused deterrence have shown decreases in violence ranging from a 63 percent reduction in youth homicides in Boston to a 34 percent reduction in total homicides in Indianapolis, Kelly said.

East St. Louis Police Chief Michael Hubbard said he is excited about the grant and the way it will be used to help East St. Louis and surrounding communities.

“I am happy about the focused deterrence grant. As we know, gun violence is on the rise not only in East St. Louis but in our surrounding municipalities. One of the main points of the grant is to reduce violent crimes that are committed with guns,” Hubbard said. “With the grant we will be able to do compliance checks on offenders as well as have training and educational programs. It is very encouraging.”

The grant will also cover a research partner to assist the multi-disciplinary team in conducting crime analysis and development and implementation of a plan that includes data collection to evaluate results.

Western Illinois University will serve as research partner for this grant, according to Kelly.

Some of the other partners include the St. Clair County Probation Department, the Illinois Department of Corrections, East St. Louis police, the Metro East Police District Commission, New Life Community Church, Lessie Bates Neighborhood House and several federal agencies.

Kelly said his office has been “seeking resources for this kind of approach to crime fighting for some time. Most folks understand we can’t get to the economic growth we need until we break the cycle of violence. So, with whatever resources we can muster, that is what we focus on,” Kelly said. “The challenges to public safety are great, but every neighborhood is worth fighting for.”

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©2017 the Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Ill.)

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