Thursday, June 13, 2002

Police, probation officers to check on convicts together

By Jane Prendergast,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Convicted criminals on probation and living in Cincinnati Police's District 4 soon will see a new pairing on their doorsteps: one probation officer, one cop.

        It's a new program aimed at reducing repeat offenses by visiting probationers who don't see their probation officers often now, particularly those with histories of offenses involving weapons, assaults or sex.

        The benefit for police officers is more knowledge about who's living in their district — which includes the neighborhoods of Avondale, Bond Hill and Walnut Hills — and, organizers hope, a reduction in crime.

        “This gives us the opportunity to interact with people on a less-stressful basis,” said Capt. David Ratliff, District 4 commander. “And if they know we're watching and they know we're aware, hopefully they'll adhere.”

        The program, District Engagement for Neighborhood Dedicated Supervision (DEFNDS), is based loosely on a 10-year-old, anti-youth-violence effort in Boston.

        There, Operation Night Light sent teams to juvenile offenders' homes to check on their behavior. Officials claim a 9 percent reduction in new arrests and a reduction in the number of probationers killed.

        Tim Shannon, assistant chief probation officer for Hamilton County, said the idea of cooperating with police in this way was discussed for some time and brought to a head in part by the Cincinnati Action Now (CAN) commission studying ways to improve police-community relations.

        He estimated the number of probationers to be visited will be several hundred. The list of names and addresses is still being finalized.

        Now, Mr. Shannon said, the county files probation violations against about 27 percent of its probationers. But that includes a lot of technical violations, such as failing to pay fines or report new addresses.

        The rate of violations for arrests on new charges — different from an offender's original conviction — is about 11 percent, he said.

        “With this, we'll be trying to address some of the things that might affect an individual's ability to commit a criminal act,” Mr. Shannon said. “Our entry purpose is a positive one, to find out who on community control is doing well. And if they're not, we'll do something about that too.”

        The visits are expected to start early next month.


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