Monday, April 16, 2012

Spokane Police Targeting Repeat Offenders

The Washington news outlet had a piece last week on an effort by Spokane Police to target repeat offenders. The story mentioned a burglary ring where the offenders had multiple felony and misdemeanor convictions yet were still out committing new crimes.

Repeat offenders, or 'career criminals' as they're sometimes called are a big problem in Spokane. Police say a few people commit the majority of the crimes here, and that's why they formed the 'Repeat Offender' program.

Under the program, a person must have at least 3 felony convictions - although crime analysts say most repeat offenders have 7-10 or more. The other criteria is recent activity, including contact with officers or witnesses linking them to recent crimes.

Every month, the targeted crime unit, detectives and prosecutors meet to try and get higher bonds and longer sentences for the people they see over and over again - including the burglary ring suspects.

We've all heard of the 80/20 rule. In law enforcement it usually goes something like "80% of your crime is committed by 20% of your offenders". While the numbers aren't always exactly 80/20, the idea that a minority of criminals are responsible for a majority of the crime does seem to hold true.

I've written about the 80/20 rule before. I think it's worth keeping this in mind because if you can focus your limited law enforcement resources on this minority of offenders, you'll likely have a much greater crime reduction than you would otherwise.

What is your agency doing to target repeat offenders in your community?


  1. We have had a repeat offender unit since late 2009, and it has been a proven success. Before we started, we brought a research team on board from the local university, and as a control group, we used those offenders nominated as repeat offenders but not accepted into the program. Those offenders accepted into the program end up having significantly higher bonds, more pre-trial confinement, a higher felony conviction rate, and longer sentences than the control group. We believe that targeting offenders who are believed to be committing, say burglaries, is far more efficient and effective than the traditional follow-up of individual burglary cases.

    1. Thanks Tim! Have you guys published anything about how your program works?

  2. I am a new crime analyst with just a year and a half under my belt. A significant issue we are dealing with now are repeat JUVENILE offenders in our Honda Auto thefts. It is very difficult to keep these offenders in custody due to their age and the criminal justice system in place in our county for juvenile offenders. What ideas or resources are out there that could help in keeping these kids in juvenile detention longer, harsher punishments, etc. The problem is quickly becoming an epidemic and spreading like wildfire because these offenders are quickly learning they can commit these crimes and get in and out of the system very quickly, are back out on the streets in a matter of days and doing the same crimes over and over. Any information on other agency tactics or success stories would be greatly appreciated.

    1. The Juvenile Serious Habitual Offender Comprehensive Action Program (SHOCAP) is designed to address this problem.

  3. Scott,
    When we get the second year of data analyzed (2011), we and our research partners are going to seek publication. Since implementing our ROP and hot spot policing, we have seen our crime drop around 19% in three years.

    That's a tough one for obvious reasons. Given their age and the possibility that some lives may be salvaged, I'd suggest looking at restorative justice options as well.

  4. Tim, Thanks. I'd like to see more about it when you are done.

    Seventy2002, I forgot about SHOCAP.


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