WAILUKU – A new Crime Strategies Unit in the Prosecutor’s Office will use the data to track crime hotspots and trends, then identify the offenders driving the activity, with the aim of reducing crime in the community .
“We need to modernize our approach to prosecutions,” said Maui County Attorney Andrew Martin. “Instead of reacting to arrests, we need to start looking proactively for ways to reduce crime. One of our goals is to protect the community.
In the “intelligence-based prosecutions” model, Martin said the prosecutor’s office will analyze crime data from a prosecution perspective. When crime trends are identified, cases will be reviewed to find connections, including between defendants, and to determine what is driving a trend and how to deal with it, he said. .
“Is there one individual or multiple individuals who are primarily responsible for this increase in crime in this particular area?” he said. “Let’s focus on those who are really driving the crime trend, and then dedicate resources to bringing the best possible cases against those people.”
“By identifying the individuals driving the crime, we can use resources to ensure we get sentences that keep them out of society.”
For the other defendants, the prosecutor’s office will try a more therapeutic approach, including offering rehabilitation options, Martin said.
An assistant prosecutor assigned to the Crime Strategies Unit will be on duty in October and will review the cases of low-level offenders who are not the ones driving the crime so that their cases can be dealt with more quickly through alternatives to the incarceration, Martin said.
In the past fiscal year, it took an average of 429 days from arraignment to plea change to resolve felony cases, Martin said. While the pandemic contributed to some of the delay, the pre-pandemic average was 349 days, he said.
During this time, the accused can be imprisoned for months or be in the community, sometimes “continue to adopt the same behavior”, said Martin.
“We are not doing them a favor. We are not doing a service to the community,” he said.
By entering into negotiations in good faith and ensuring that cases go to trial if they cannot be settled, Martin said the hope is to resolve cases within six months.
“It certainly doesn’t impact crime if you let cases sit in the system for more than a year,” he said. “This person is not getting services, they are not getting help. If they represent a danger to the community and they are not in detention, they are not expelled from the community.
The prosecution is recruiting to fill the positions of Information Systems Analyst V and Investigator III to join the Crime Strategies Unit in January.
The analyst would work with police department analysts to help devise ways to improve the flow of data from the department to the prosecutor’s office, Martin said. He said the investigator would do some work in support of the unit’s prosecutions.
While a deputy assigned to the unit will coordinate information, it will be shared with all assistant prosecutors so there can be a department-wide strategy, Martin said.
He said the approach includes “open the flow of intelligence between police and prosecutors” and creating a priority list of offenders who cause crime in the community.
When the prosecutor’s office began speaking with police about what they considered to be driving offences, some of the people identified by police “wouldn’t have stood out as someone we really need to focus on,” said Martin.
He said that a person involved in the conduct of a crime in an area was in the prosecutor’s system as a person involved in “Very low-level property offenses and some misdemeanor-level violent offenses.”
With the new unit, if a high priority offender is arrested, “we can now say that he is someone who must be a priority”, said Martin.
In addition to working with the police department, the prosecutor’s office “engage with the community” by holding meetings so residents can talk about what’s going on in their neighborhood, Martin said.
He said a criminal trend tracked by both the police and the prosecutor’s office was a 41% increase in stolen vehicles this year. Through July 28, police said 511 vehicles were reported stolen in Maui County, compared to 363 vehicles stolen during the same period last year.
While the “reactive approach” to increase these crimes would be to seek mandatory jail sentences for all defendants charged in stolen vehicle cases, “it would have no effect” said Martin.
“It wouldn’t actually achieve the goal” reduce crime, he said.
Instead, he said the department was using intelligence-driven prosecution methods to target the increase in vehicle thefts.
Though new to Maui County, crime strategy units have existed in prosecutors’ offices nationwide for a dozen years, Martin said.
Cyrus Vance, who recently retired as a Manhattan District Attorney, was the first to propose the idea.
“The goal is to build stronger relationships with law enforcement, with the community, so that you can open up the flow of information to the prosecutor’s office, both from law enforcement and from the community”, said Martin. “Instead of just reacting to cases that come up on your desk, you can make more informed decisions, better direct your resources to the people who are actually causing crime in the community.”
The Maui County unit will not be the same as the program in Manhattan or other areas.
“It will be unique to Maui,” said Martin. “Every community is different.
“When you look at a small community like ours, the impact is magnified. We can have a huge impact with a relatively small amount of resources.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at [email protected]