Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said when she was on the campaign trail she was serious about targeting repeat offenders and now a joint effort has led to the creation of the Collateral Offender Unit to do just that.

“I believe proper prosecution of the first offense will lead to lower recidivism numbers,” Alsobrooks said in a statement. “I also believe that ongoing training opportunities will lead to better prosecutions and lower recidivism rates.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley said this unit, a creation of a federal, state and local partnership, will play a key role in keeping streets safe in Prince George’s County.

“To create jobs and maintain our quality of life, we must continue to make every neighborhood in our state a safer place to live, work and do business,” O’Malley said in a statement. “This joint effort between our federal, state and local partners will remove dangerous offenders from the streets of Prince George’s County, creating safer communities for our families and children.”

Helping with this unit will be the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation as well as county and municipal police. That extra help is necessary for a county fighting a spike in the homicide rate all year.

“With this grant, Prince George’s County residents are being provided with additional resources of protection from criminals,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III. “I want to thank Governor O’Malley and Senators Mikulski and Cardin for their unwavering support in keeping Prince George’s County communities safe. I am confident that Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Alsobrooks will fully utilize this grant and exceed its potential as an effective crime fighting tool.”

Repeat offenders are seen as a huge hindrance to public safety inside the county. The rate at the county’s correctional facility is 66 percent while the Maryland Department of Public Safety Correctional Services says the statewide rate of returning inmates is 49 percent.

Those numbers are what drove U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski to take action on creation of the unit.

“This funding is a federal investment in keeping our communities strong and thriving. It will help keep Marylanders safe in their neighborhoods,” Mikulski, chairwoman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, said. “I will continue to fight to give law enforcement and prosecutors the tools they need to clean up the streets, protect our families, and fight crime.”

Funds for the unit will be distributed via the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention and the federal Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program. The county must re-apply for the funds each year to continue receiving the grant. Susan Sullam, spokeswoman for Sen. Ben Cardin, said the unit will handle violation of probation cases to help the county prosecute offenders in a timelier manner.

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO