The Madison Police Department announced it will add three officers to its special repeat offenders prevention program in February after receiving a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.
With funds awarded from the Community Oriented Policing Services, MPD’s Special Investigations Unit plans to add two additional detectives and one intelligence officer, MPD spokesperson Joel DeSpain said.
The unit, introduced in July 2011, is currently a three-detective contingent working closely with violent repeat criminals to prevent further offenses.
The COPS grant comes to $712,992 and will fund the extra positions for three years, according to a city of Madison statement. DeSpain added expansion of the unit has been anticipated since its creation.
The SIU partners with local humanitarian agencies and functions by ordering Madison’s most violent repeat criminals to a hearing where they are given the opportunity to receive assistance in a number of areas including employment, education, parenting skills and substance abuse, according to the statement.
Law enforcement officials also attend the hearing to inform the past offenders of the consequences that would come from further wrongdoing, DeSpain said.
Approximately 30 individuals have been notified by MPD about attending hearings thus far, according to DeSpain, and some have been able to turn away from crime as a result.
“Some people are taking advantage of that offer and are working well, and others have not changed their lifestyles,” he said. “Some of these people have been revoked and are back behind bars.”
Linda Ketcham, executive director of the Madison Area Urban Ministry, one of the local agencies working in conjunction with the MPD, said she is pleased the SIU will be expanding in the near future.
“I think one of the things people sometimes don’t realize is how much of an active role the department detectives take [in] keeping in touch with the people involved in the program,” she said. “I think it’s going to be really important they have the ability to adequately staff [the unit].”
Ketcham added she expects MPD’s program to be as successful as similar programs elsewhere in the country, noting the progress High Point, N.C., has seen after implementation of a similar initiative.
As the program progresses, DeSpain said the goal is to eventually help individuals with trouble in other aspects of the law as well, rather than just prevention of violent crime.
“What the unit is is a problem-solving method, so it’s focused on deterrents,” DeSpain said. “As we move forward, we’d like to apply the problem-solving method to other problems including domestic violence and drunk drivers.”
The launching of the SIU back in July 2011 drew praise from community leaders, including Mayor Paul Soglin, according to the statement. U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., also congratulated MPD for the grant.