The Lackawanna County Community Prosecution initiative will intertwine a pro-active approach to crime with a heavy emphasis on prevention, direct contact between prosecutors and community residence, a partnership with area social service providers, mental health providers, drug and alcohol treatment providers, school districts, defense attorneys, clergy, and area business. This collaboration will allow prosecution to familiarize themselves with neighborhood residence and the services available them in order that diversion and treatment programs can be implemented to reduce further criminal activity and strengthen the communities infrastructure within the City of Scranton.
•Hill Section, Scranton
•South Side, Scranton
Community Safety Law
All of the above titles in there purest form mean the same thing, taking a direct active role in the provision of public safety in the communities where they work and not primarily by processing criminal cases. Some have nothing to do with case processing and some are not even prosecutors. Although there are different models of community prosecution a common theme among all existing program is that the "Prosecutor" spends a significant amount of time working as a street advocate. Common activities include: attending neighborhood association meetings, participating in marches, dropping in on community-based social service providers while cultivating and maintaining community contacts keeping a close hand on what the true problems of the community are.
When an assistant district attorney becomes a community prosecutor they break the current paradigm and break out of the tradition way to thinking. They no longer hold the answers to the questions of crime. They must abdicate the power they currently hold while working within the confines of the courthouse, and re-adjust the way they work within the system. Typically, prosecutors deal with criminal cases in isolation from the neighborhood setting from which they occur. Cases are prioritized according to their "seriousness". Community prosecutors break away from this frame of thought and take into account the connections among cases and between cases and problems.
The typical tools available to a prosecutor in the court room are prosecution and threat of prosecution. When a prosecutors office undertakes community prosecution the stakes change. Community Prosecutors must become active listeners. So one may ask what does active listening mean? The answer is, not always having the answers, but working in a cooperative effort with the community to find them.
Neighborhoods that have been plagued by quality of life crimes such as prostitution, street level drug dealing, public intoxication, vandalism, and petty thefts often feel as through government officials, such as prosecutors, do not care about their problems. They also feel that prosecutors feel that if the bad guy goes to jail their job is done. This however is not the case. Community prosecutors form community partnerships with neighborhood residence and businesses; educate the community on public safety and educated those major players in the community including public housing personnel, courts, traditional prosecutors, and public officials; promote interagency collaboration among public and private agencies in the community; promote partnerships with police officers, private code and nuisance abatement; and most importantly utilize innovative strategies.
Ethically it must be remembered that the Community Prosecutor does not represent the community members legally nor are they the communities attorney. The work within the community and in some models prosecute the cases that come out of the respective communities, or they may only prosecute the cases out of the respective community that the community feels the strongest about. Many times Community Prosecutors will be in the courtroom with neighborhood residence in the role of “street or community advocate” as another District Attorney prosecutes the respective case. In conclusion, there are nine critical components of Community Prosecution that include:
•A proactive approach
•A clearly defined target area
•Varied enforcement methods
•Support from policy makers
Check the web-site calendar to see when the Community Prosecutors will be in your neighborhood.
For more information contact:
Assistant DA, Gene Talerico