In 2011, the Madison Police Department formed the Special Investigations Unit (SIU). The SIU reflected MPD's effort to utilize focused deterrence as an approach to crime prevention. The concept recognizes that a relatively small number of offenders are responsible for a significant amount of crime in the community. The focused deterrence process has a few simple steps:
- Identify the offenders who are responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime in the community.
- Bring those offenders in to a "notification" meeting. The notification has two key components: first, members of the community describe the impact that their criminal activity has had on the community and offer the offenders support and assistance to turn their lives around. This support can include housing, job training, etc. Second, law enforcement and prosecutors deliver a message to the offenders that they will be held to a higher level of scrutiny in the future, and that any additional criminal behavior will be prosecuted vigorously.
- Maintain a high level of contact and involvement with the notified offenders (this is done primarily by members of SIU). This includes both working to make sure that the offender has the support/resources needed to make positive change; and ensuring that any criminal activity engaged in by the offender is prosecuted fully.
Since the implementation of SIU, the program has been successful. Many offenders have taken the opportunity to turn their lives around and discontinue their criminal behavior. Those that have chosen to continue engaging in illegal activity have been arrested and prosecuted.
The next phase of the focused deterrence concept is a district-level, or Tier II, approach. This process is similar to the larger SIU process, but is district specific. Offenders are selected who have an impact on crime and quality of life in the district, but whose criminal history is not significant enough to merit the full SIU treatment and notification. The intent of the Tier II approach is to focus on lower-level offenders who still have a significant impact on the community, and to intervene before they behavior rises to the level of Tier I offenders.
The West District is doing a pilot project this year implementing the Tier II process. Last week, the first notification meeting took place...the meeting was a success, and will hopefully have a positive impact on the offender and the community.