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Chief Wray's Blog

The Impact and Success of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU)

January 13, 2014 9:31 AM

One program, a 3 year time period, a socioeconomic savings of over $11 million dollars and a 96.5% reduction of criminal charges is what the SIU is about.  Please continue to read on to see the importance of this program and the huge impact it has had on our community! 

Several years ago our Department developed a new approach to address repeat violent offenders in our community.  SIU stands for "Special Investigations Unit" and they were developed in 2010 in order to develop and maintain a focused deterrence approach when it comes to repeat offenders in our community.  This new approach has been proven to be very successful in the past several years and it involves several agencies working together in order to make the process effective and efficient. 

Why this concept was developed: First we know that there are individuals in our community that have a history of violent behavior and who continue to make poor decisions by committing additional crimes.  Second we understand and realize that such a proactive strategy such as the SIU is a shared responsibility where the police and the community must be actively engaged in order to address the problem.  Finally we know that offenders must be held accountable for their actions but offering them support has been a proven method to reduce violent crime, recidivism, the number of arrests as well as saving cities millions of dollars from the socioeconomic impacts of deterring crime.

Who is involved in this approach:  Members of the Madison Police Department, the Department of Corrections, the Dane County District Attorney's office, the U.S. Attorney's office, Community Against Violence (CAV), outside law enforcement agencies and select Judges make up a "Selection Committee".

More about the Selection Committee:  A Selection Committee, formed of the members involved in this process described above, meet to review a comprehensive background of each candidate's history.  An individual becomes a candidate based on their felony conviction record, their probation history, their violent criminal history and their recent criminal activity.  The Selection Committee is not given the candidate's name or race when they vote on who should be "notified."  There have been five Notifications or "Call-Ins" to date and 54 offenders have been identified as having repeat violent histories.  Once an offender has been selected by the committee they are assigned to a SIU Detective and a Probation Agent.  The offender is brought in front of the committee where they are given an abundant amount of resources that will give them the tools necessary to live a crime-free life.  The notion of "we will try to help you if you want it but we won't tolerate you committing any more violent crime" versus "we're out to get you" is driven home to the offenders at these notification meetings.  We hope that all offenders take advantage of the opportunities given to them and that they become positive law-abiding members of our community.  This is not always the outcome however and it is important to understand that focused deterrence is also successful if we hold offenders accountable for their actions.  

What each agency offers to the program:  Our Department has committed to this program one Lieutenant, five detectives and one officer who gather the data for potential candidates to be notified.  Our officers provide very thorough initial investigations that involve notified offenders knowing that there will be no breaks given to them in Court.  The various units within our Department (these units include our patrol officers to our Task Force Unit to our Crime Prevention Gang Unit and everyone else in between) must and do communicate effectively in order for this program to be successful.  The Department of Corrections (DOC) has assigned three Probation Agents to this program.  They send a clear message to the identified offenders that they will be placed on probation holds for any new violations.  The DOC supplies offenders with a multitude of resource opportunities to assist them.  The District Attorney's Office (DA's office) has made it clear to offenders during the notification meetings that there will be no breaks or plea deals offered to them for new offenses.  The U.S. Attorney's Office has been a very supportive advocate of this program.  93 US Attorneys have been provided with information on our program in order for them to take this into consideration during prosecution of cases.  The SIU strives to ensure that all of the Dane County law enforcement agencies are aware and educated about this program.  It is imperative that agencies are aware of this program so that if/when they book an identified offender into jail they are made a priority with regards to prosecution and the types of resources that have been offered to them.  The Community Against Violence (CAV) was established specifically for this focused deterrence approach.  The CAV is comprised of various agencies that coordinate and provide resources to the notified offenders.  Such agencies involved in the CAV include Voices Beyond Bars, Urban League, Centro Hispano, Department of Public Instruction, Neighborhood Intervention Program, Joining Forces for Families, TJ's Support Brokerage Firm, YWCA, Journey Mental Health and FSET/Journey Home & Dane County Job Center.

Feedback from Offenders:  Two previously notified offenders addressed the Selection Committee at a recent Notification meeting.  Their message to the new group of offenders was to own their past, take advantage of the opportunities provided to them and to heed the message presented to them.  For every year that an offender does not commit a violent crime they receive an anniversary letter from the Chief of Police, the US Attorney, the District Attorney and the DOC Regional Chief congratulating them.  This letter serves two purposes - reinforces to the offender that they are still being focused on and it sends a message from the highest levels that we recognize this important accomplishment.  Offenders who have received these letters have offered positive feedback of this achievement.

Hard facts that show the program works: 
Prior to notification there were 1,572 criminal charges for the 54 identified offenders.  This breaks down to an average of 29 charges per offender.  After their notification the total number of new charges decreased to 55 new charges.  The following chart displays additional statistics which shows the clear success of the program so far:



Average Per    Offender

Post-Notification Totals

Criminal Charges       1,572           29           55
Felony Convictions        336            6           14
Misdemeanor Convictions        468            9           14
Gun Involvement/Crimes        40/54

         74% (of all offenders)

Victims         515          10            9
Estimated Socioeconomic Impacts  $11,097,282.00  




74% of these offenders have gun incidents in their histories and we have no information of any new gun offenses.  Over 30 of the offenders have gang affiliations.  33 of the offenders are currently in our community.  Several of the offenders are now employed thanks to CAV assistance.  9 of the offenders are currently in prison, 11 offenders are currently in jail and 1 offender is wanted for a federal indictment and is currently at large. 

Where we go from here:  The program is still fairly new and with any new program we continually look for system improvements and adjustments to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the program.  Our agency and those that we work with on this program are dedicated to the mission of offering "wrap-around" services to the offenders.  While we offer support and resources to offenders to not live a life of crime we will not tolerate a community where offenders continually commit crimes. 

This program is successful and will continue to be with the continued involvement and support of those in our community.  Everyone involved in this process is dedicated to the mission of the program.  I am extremely proud of those involved in this effort and the positive outcomes we have seen from this program thus far.

Posted by: Interim Chief Gaber

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