Establishing and strengthening a Community Prosecution model in the Northwestern District was and continues to be one of District Attorney Dave Sullivan's highest priorities.
This tried-and-true approach to law enforcement brings together the district attorney's office, law enforcement, the community and public and private organizations in a long-term, pro-active approach to solving problems, improving public safety and enhancing quality of life.
Northampton Ward 6 Neighborhood Watch meeting, January 2011
A product of the 1990’s when many police targeted low-level and quality-of-life crimes, the underlying theory of community prosecution suggests that even small signs of neighborhood disorder can create an environment that is more susceptible to crime. Therefore, by addressing minor offenses such as vandalism, truancy, and public vagrancy, police might thwart more serious crime in the future.
Traditionally, prosecutors simply represented the State when prosecuting crimes; however community prosecution is a pro-active, solutions based approach to justice where prosecutors are both a representative of and a leader in a community. Community prosecutors reach out to community groups, schools, faith-based groups and other community organizations to identify concerns and prioritize strategies for addressing those concerns. Community prosecutors also work with local and state police and other government agencies to share intelligence, strategize, and support each other.
The main elements of community prosecution include:
Geographic target area- a prosecutor focuses their efforts on a specific neighborhood, community, or district.
Vertical Prosecution- a single prosecutor handles a case from start to finish and has a greater understanding of the facts, issues, and witnesses involved. This practice is more effective and more efficient than traditional “horizontal” prosecution where cases are passed from one attorney to another.
Partnerships- prosecutors team with law enforcement, reach out to the community, and work with other agencies to gather intelligence, educate, communicate, and address concerns. This integration within a community garners trust from local citizens by giving them a voice and by allowing them to prioritize strategies for addressing their unique concerns.
Emphasis on Action- community prosecution emphasizes a pro-active approach to public safety and quality-of-life issues.
Rather than focusing on individual crimes, community prosecutors take a contextual approach, viewing individual acts as having a history, potentially a future, and as part of a problem or set of problems within a community. In evaluating the effectiveness of their activities and impact on neighborhoods, community prosecutors use an evidence-based approach that goes beyond the tallying of conviction rates, continuously adapting to the community’s needs.