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Three Year Anniversary for Maryland's Violence Prevention Initiative

The Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI) turns three years old this summer and will receive an award for innovation from the National Criminal Justice Association in August.


2010-08-19
August 19, 2010 (Press-News.org) In 2007, Governor Martin O'Malley in conjunction with the Department of Probation and Parole (DPP) introduced the Violence Prevention Initiative to identify and supervise the most violent offenders in Maryland. The ultimate goal of the program is to stop the revolving door for serious offenders in the criminal justice system by better monitoring their behavior through strict supervision requirements.

The Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI) turns three years old this summer and will receive an award for innovation from the National Criminal Justice Association in August. In an interview with the Washington Examiner, Patrick McGee, the director of the state's probation and parole department, says that setting expectations and putting supervision at the front of the offender's mind has been key to the program's success. McGee says offenders know that if they have one violation or missed appointment, DPP officials are going to request that action be taken in the courts.

In 2007, the program began in Baltimore, with one agent being assigned to the area. Since that time, the program has expanded and agents now cover territories throughout Baltimore County and Prince George's County.

Offenders That are Part of the VPI

When the program was started, the major focus was on indentifying offenders who required enhanced supervision. The goal was to find a trend and note those offenders who were on a path to committing future violent crimes. Officials with the DPP reviewed statistics of murder and shooting suspects and developed what they referred to as a "common sense" system to target those most likely to reoffend.

According to the Governor's Office of Crime Control & Prevention (GOCCP), if an offender meets any of the following criteria, he or she is required to have a weekly, face-to-face meeting with an agent at the Department of Probation and Parole:
- Under 29 years of age
- Thirteen or more total arrests with at least one firearm offense
- Three or more juvenile complaints with at least one firearm offense
- High-ranking gang status

The DPP will also consider recommendations by law enforcement agencies, state's attorney offices, prior assaults on staff, and if the offender was a victim of the shooting in the last three years to determine whether enhanced screening is required. Additionally, the new policy requires DPP agents to request a violation of probation warrant for any re-arrest.

Using these criteria, the DPP found over 2.300 offenders who were under traditional community based supervision programs at risk for committing violent crimes. As a result, better supervision models were used to keep an eye on these offenders.

A second level of supervision, named VP2, was implemented in March of 2009. This level was developed to help offenders transition to supervision outside of the VPI.

Success of the Program

According to Governor O'Malley, violent crime is at its lowest levels since 1975. Officials are quick to point to the reduction in violent crime statistics since the inception of the program.

A study was conducted by DPP comparing homicide and non-fatal shooting statistics from 2005-2007, two years prior to the start of VPI, with the same crimes from 2007-2009, two years after the program began. The GOCCP notes that there was a 16 percent reduction in homicides and a 20 percent reduction in non-fatal shootings over that time.

Accountability and Communication

Accountability of the agents is one factor contributing to the program's success. Only hand-selected agents are able to take on VPI caseloads. An individual agent's performance is reviewed regularly and those who are not meeting the DPP's standards are removed from any VPI cases.

Better communication and data sharing between law enforcement and corrections officials is also helping the program. The DPP makes the identities of offenders in the highest risk category available to local police departments. The goal is to have law enforcement officials help DPP agents monitor these offenders and locate them in the event that they violate the terms of their release. Data sharing also lets police departments notify DPP immediately if an offender in the program is arrested or detained for another crime.

With the success of the program, officials expect it to continue; meaning the most serious offenders will be dealing with the strictest supervisory guidelines for some time to come.

Article provided by Law Offices of Richard P. Arnold
Visit us at www.richardparnold.com

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[Press-News.org] Three Year Anniversary for Maryland's Violence Prevention Initiative
The Violence Prevention Initiative (VPI) turns three years old this summer and will receive an award for innovation from the National Criminal Justice Association in August.
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