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Deadly Annapolis incident involved probationer in strict program

William Ranaldo Brown Jr., who was fatally shot by police this month after he stabbed his ex-girlfriend in Annapolis, was one of 2,100 convicted criminals in a strict probation program aimed at keeping track of Maryland's most violent offenders.

Despite the deadly incident, officials say the program, called the Violence Prevention Initiative, is a valuable part of the effort to reduce violent crime in Maryland.

"It's not a panacea to end crime," said Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. "It's the state's way to give local law enforcement an effective tool to fight violent crime."

The VPI program was created in 2007 to keep close tabs on offenders who are violent and likely to commit more crimes. All offenders who are mandatorily released from prison are screened for possible participation based on their criminal history, history of violence, age and other factors.

Offenders in VPI have more frequent checks by probation agents, who work closely with local police officers to keep an eye on them. All infractions — skipping a meeting with a probation agent, missing a day at work — result in the offender being hauled into court for a potential violation of probation offense.

In fiscal 2012, VPI offenders were issued 3,590 warrants for violation of probation, the most since the program started, according to data provided by the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. A total of 1,585 VPI offenders had their probation revoked.

Annapolis police said Brown stabbed his former girlfriend, Ronnesha Simms, with two knives outside her Copeland Street home Sept. 10. A police officer shot him at least five times, but Brown stabbed Simms one more time. Both died at the hospital.

Russell Butler, executive director of the Maryland Crime Victims' Resource Center, said VPI can be a useful way to reduce recidivism, but a piece of paper won't always stop someone from committing a crime.

"It's a good tool," he said. "But some people don't care about conditions of probation."

—Pamela Wood

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