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Prosecutor to use data to target ‘chronic offenders’

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There is a bit of truth behind the long-standing police adage that 80 percent of the crimes are committed by 20 percent of the people. Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist has now set his sights on the “worst of the worst.”

The prosecutor’s office is working on a localized program that it is based on a similar one used by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office to pay special attention to repeat offenders around the county who often escalate their crimes the longer they commit them. Similar programs are underway in many major cities around the nation.

“The concept here is based on data-driven prosecution,” Lindquist said at a study session of the Pierce County Public Safety and Human Services meeting to outline the priority-offender initiative. “This is something that has worked in other states, and we have adapted it for Pierce County.”

Former Tacoma Police Department Detective Gene Miller is coordinating the effort in the prosecutor’s office. He will essentially use arrest records, Department of Corrections records and other reports to identify criminals who are repeatedly committing crimes, often shortly after being released from jail or prison. Information about the number of crimes a person committed, the span of time during those crime sprees and the often increasingly dangerousness of those crimes will be then used by the prosecutor’s office to determine sentencing recommendations based on a holistic picture of the criminal’s arrest and conviction record rather than just the charges they face when they are re-arrested.

“In some cases, it is a matter of days between release and arrest on new charges.”
Gene Miller Former Tacoma Police Department Detective

“In some cases, it is a matter of days between release and arrest on new charges,” Miller said.

Some of that data mining has been done for years but adding detail and patterns through the program will flesh out that otherwise cursory snapshots.

Pierce County already has one of the highest crime rates in the state, which naturally means the area has a high number of career criminals.

“As a result of that, we have chronic offenders doing very, very bad things,” Miller said.

The chronic offender initiative hopes to not only lower the overall crime rate by identifying those criminals out there who commit numerous crimes between release from prison and their eventual re-arrest but also to lower the burden on an already overloaded court system.

Miller pointed out that the Pierce County Jail system booked some 32,000 arrestees during the last two years. Those arrests tallied 20,000 individuals, of whom 13,000 were booked on felony charges. Diving into the data shows that 490 of those arrestees were booked five or more times during that period, earning them the “chronic offender” label.

Miller highlighted two of the criminals among the list. One man has been arrested 50 times, with 15 drug and property felonies dating back to 1991. He is currently living in Pierce County. Another man has been arrested 25 times, has 14 convictions dating back to 1988 and is now a registered sex offender in the area.

“I’ve got 400 more just like them,” Miller said. “These aren’t even the worst of the worst.”

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