2002-08-31 / Community

New Initiative Targets Repeat Offenders

New Initiative Targets Repeat Offenders

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, joined by New York City Criminal Justice Coordinator John Feinblatt, has announced Operation Spotlight is now underway in Queens County. This is a new, comprehensive multi-agency criminal justice initiative designed to identify chronic misdemeanor offenders and target them for enhanced prosecution.

The program which started August 19, is being administered in conjunction with the Mayor’s Criminal Justice Coordinator’s Office. It is designed to ensure that chronic misdemeanants receive meaningful sanctions for their crimes, or, if appropriate, are referred to intensive, court-supervised substance abuse treatment. The Queens County District Attorney’s office is the first prosecutor’s office to take part in the program, which is slated for expansion citywide.

First announced in May by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and District Attorney Brown at a City Hall news conference, the program augments the District Attorney’s ongoing Misdemeanor Recidivist Program and enhances the involvement of various City agencies, including the Police Department, the Department of Probation and the State Division of Parole.

"We believe that targeting career criminals on a misdemeanor level is an effective way to deal with quality of life offenses and better protect public safety. A relatively small percentage of individuals have been and continue to be responsible for much of the crime committed in our city. Operation Spotlight focuses the resources of the entire criminal justice system – police, prosecutors, courts, corrections, probation and parole – on persistent misdemeanants who ordinarily do not commit serious or violent crimes but whose annoying and disruptive conduct can have a dispiriting impact on our quality of life," said District Attorney Brown.

The District Attorney noted that the initiative is focusing on a group of offenders, approximately 9,000 in number, who repeatedly commit misdemeanors and added that many of these offenders, roughly 40 percent, are convicted felons. In addition, approximately 43 percent have six or more prior misdemeanor convictions and approximately 27 percent have 11 or more prior misdemeanor convictions.

"It makes sense to focus our resources on the most chronic offenders who are responsible for the most harm. This program will improve the quality of life for the people of Queens and for all New Yorkers," noted Criminal Justice Coordinator Feinblatt.

District Attorney Brown explained that individuals would be eligible for inclusion in the program if they have three or more arrests within the previous year, at least two for non-felony offenses, and two or more misdemeanor convictions, at least one within the previous year.

The District Attorney’s Intake Bureau is placing these cases into a Supreme Court Bureau file marked "Operation Spotlight," and flagging them as "Operation Spotlight" cases within the DA’s office case tracking system.

Some of these cases, after evaluation by District Attorney’s Criminal Court supervisors, are being referred to the Queens Misdemeanor Treatment Court.

The Police Department is expediting the production of laboratory reports and corroborating affidavits. Notices to the Department of Probation and the Division of Parole will identify defendants as "Operation Spotlight" defendants. If warranted, revocation hearings will be expedited.

The cases will be assigned to a specially designated judge and given top priority for trial.

The District Attorney noted that this group of identified misdemeanor offenders is responsible for a disproportionate share of the City’s quality of life offenses, most commonly drug possession, property crimes and criminal trespass.

"Through our combined efforts, we will be able to get chronic offenders off the street and into jail and, in those cases in which drug addiction or alcohol abuse is an aggravating factor, to get offenders into treatment," District Attorney Brown said.

The District Attorney said the initiative’s overall goal is to identify chronic misdemeanants and to control their anti-social behavior by ensuring that they are appropriately sanctioned for their criminal conduct or referred for intensive substance abuse treatment.

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