Our Community Prosecution Program
Improving the quality of life for DeKalb residents is rooted in prosecuting crime and deterring crime through community prosecution −a nationally-proven method that uses a proactive, integrated, solutions-based, and grassroots approach to combat quality-of-life crimes in targeted areas through partnerships among the community, police and prosecutors.
In her first year in Office in 2011, Solicitor-General Boston hired the County’s first full-time community prosecutor, who works with neighborhood residents, community organizations, service providers, the faith community, and police to identify public safety problems and to promote long-term solutions to quality-of-life issues vexing DeKalb communities. These quality-of-life issues can include graffiti, vandalism, trespassing, disorderly conduct, drug solicitation, prostitution, and aggressive panhandling. These issues can also be an absentee landlord who allows a tenant to sell beer, cigarettes, drugs or sex from his or her apartment. Or, it can be the landlord who turns a blind eye to the tenant operating an unlicensed bar, dance club, or ‘massage’ parlor from a commercial space. And, it can be the persistent presence of criminal activity in a private or public space.
The Community Prosecutor has weekly meetings with the police department, and attends countless Homeowner and Community Associations meetings, and other community events in order to talk with stakeholders and identify their public safety and quality-of-life issues. Additionally, the community prosecutor identifies ‘frequent flyers,’ or repeat offenders − who are known in the community to go through the courts as if they’re going in and out of a revolving door − and then shares that information with fellow prosecutors, who, in turn, inform judges to help them determine appropriate sentences and, if needed, direct defendants to therapeutic treatment. In some instances, the Community Prosecutor will personally prosecute cases involving frequent flyers or cases of particular interest to a community.
The Community Prosecutor also acts as an advocate for and liaison to the community, and develops informative community outreach programs, including appearing at events, organizing Court Watch training, and developing Business Watch groups througout DeKalb.
Our Community Prosecution Program also tackles nuisance properties – those properties known within the community to sustain criminal activity – through the filing of civil nuisance abatement actions. While the criminal justice system addresses individual offenders who have committed crimes, civil nuisance abatement actions enable prosecutors to go after nuisance properties and their owners for allowing criminal activity to flourish. The Solicitor-General’s Office works with law enforcement and the community to identify problem areas through which we can utilize civil remedies against the property, its owners / occupants and other relevant parties.
While these cases can be time-consuming to investigate and litigate, they yield results. One settlement resulted in a landlord evicting tenants who had been operating an illegal nightclub, serving alcohol, and featuring adult entertainment and gambling without proper permits or licenses. The landlord also agreed that the space should be used only as a diesel truck repair shop and donated $3,500 to a Decatur not-for-profit dedicated to ending violence against women.
These cases go a long way to making DeKalb safer because they disrupt criminal activity and force criminals to find a new place to do ‘business.’ Law-abiding citizens enjoy a better quality-of-life and, eventually, improved property values. It is a multi-pronged effort involving police, prosecutors and the community working together so that the 700,000 citizens living in DeKalb can enjoy the quality-of-life they deserve and want despite these trying economic times.