By Jon Meoli, firstname.lastname@example.org
3:46 PM EST, November 15, 2011
Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson and his department were honored Tuesday morning at a ceremony in the Public Safety Building in Towson for the department's efforts to identify and monitor violent offenders, and prevent violent crimes in the county.
"The next wave of crime prevention is not just getting the bad guys off of the street," County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said to a crowd of about two dozen people. "It's just as important to stop a crime before it's committed and that's why this Violence Prevention Initiative through the state is really an effective tool.
"It has really allowed (police) to use data-driven risk assessment as a tool to identify violent offenders on parole or probation who have the greatest potential for committing future violent crimes."
Because of its success in enacting the state's Violence Prevention Initiative — an inter-agency commitment to aggressively monitor and supervise high-risk violent offenders — the county police department was one of three departments to earn the prestigious Webber Seavey Award, which is annually awarded by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
"Using the latest in advanced data-driven technology, we make the most of our time and our resources" Johnson said. "The Violence Prevention Initiative has helped us to coordinate our resources and thus, create a more effective and efficient partnership."
According to data provided by the police department, 305 warrants have been served since the beginning of 2010 and 150 arrests have been made because of the Violence Prevention Initiative.
Through collaboration with the state Division of Probation and Parole and Department of Juvenile Services, the initiative has resulted in 1,932 contacts with adult offenders and 958 contacts with juvenile offenders through the home visit program.
"While it may seem simple, that's a big step to collaboratively team together different units and organizations at the state and local level, to knock on that door" and find out why people aren't home at 9:30 p.m. when their parole requires them to be, Johnson said.
Additionally, 60 high-ranking gang members were arrested as a result of the initiative.
The need to focus on monitoring violent offenders comes as a result of a 2009 National Uniform Crime Report and Bureau of Justice studies provided by the police department which indicates that more than half of the state's inmates were on probation, parole, or pre-trial release for previous offenses at the time of their arrest. Also, 40 percent of inmates have a current or past sentence for a violent offense.
During the ceremony, Johnson recalled two recent incidents where the initiative has paid immediate dividends in making the county safer.
Last month, the sharing of information between agencies led to the seizure of 24 guns from a man on probation. In fact, the man had two guns in the vehicle he drove to his probation office, Johnson said.
In another incident, the county's robbery unit was able to gain information from databases outside the county's jurisdiction to make a quick arrest in relation to a series of robberies.
"These are just two great examples of the success we've experienced utilizing the Violence Prevention Initiative," Johnson said. "I'm very proud of my agency and the partnership we've formed with the State of Maryland."
On the state level, Division of Probation and Parole Director Pat Vale said that the Violence Prevention Initiative has identified 2,100 offenders statewide, with particular focus on Baltimore City and Baltimore and Prince George's counties.
VPI offenders are required to have two face-to-face meetings each week, plus one phone meeting and frequent check-ins with the Department of Probation and Parole's electronic kiosk system.
According to Vale, the initiative has helped produce the state's lowest homicide rate since the data began being kept in 1975.
The award is a "great recognition of the efforts of a lot of people, all working to keep Maryland safe," Vale said.