Minneapolis’ Downtown 100 program, which targets 50 people at a time selected for their history as chronic offenders, is close to winding up its first year and is claiming success, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Crime committed by the first 50 offenders dropped in the 120-block downtown core by 74 percent between 2009 and 2010. Various organizations and agencies work with cops, prosecutors, probation officers, and others to define a path to a better, more crime-free future for the chronic offenders.
The idea originated with Lois Conroy, who works the downtown precinct as a community prosecutor for the city. After seven years on the job, she realized, “We cannot arrest our way out of this problem. We cannot prosecute our way out of this problem.” She began advocating a different approach. Even before funding was lined up, a team began working with community representatives to monitor the behavior of chronic offenders and envision a better outcome for each. Prosecutors entered courtrooms armed with recommendations reached through consensus by those who discuss cases at a weekly meeting. They decide what services might be offered to reduce an offender’s chances of appearing in court again. Another key part of the program is having probation officers track frequent offenders, something unusual for lower-level offenses.