9/16/2011 : Louisiana Sheriffs’ launch new program identifying repeat offenders
A well-known fact among criminologists states that 6% of the criminals in America commit 70% of the crime.  What if law enforcement officers were able to identify this 6% and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law? The result should be a significant reduction of incidents of crime in the community making Louisiana a safer place to live.

This is exactly what law enforcement officials in Louisiana are focusing on.  Over the past few years, the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association (LSA), East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux, West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Mike Cazes, and Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley, have been partnering with the Baton Rouge Police Department and East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore to develop a new program placing attention on Louisiana’s habitual offenders.

This new program is an extension of a model program administered by Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, called Code 6.  For years Code 6 has been widely successful in addressing violent crimes committed by the “chronic 6%” of the population.

Now through a federal grant, the LSA has been able to expand this concept statewide, developing a software program that has identified over 22,000 repeat offenders in the state.  A repeat offender is defined using a combination of federal and state guidelines based on their number of arrests and/or convictions.  When a criminal meets the criteria of a repeat offender, they automatically goes into the database.

This new program, entitled the Repeat Offenders Prosecution Enforcement System (ROPES) uses Louisiana’s existing criminal justice database, the Louisiana Civil and Criminal Information Exchange (LACCIE).  Through LACCIE, law enforcement officers are now able to maintain a better watch of the activities of individuals and can more easily work to ensure repeat offenders are sentenced to the maximum statutory limit.

Over the past few months, the LSA along with East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s office and Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office have held eight successful in-service training sessions throughout the state.  Leading officials in narcotics, detectives, and intelligence, along with information system directors and District Attorneys have participated in these sessions.  So far, over 231 officers and 67 departments including some municipal police departments have benefitted form the new program.

The key to success with this initiative will be communication.  Not only the sharing of information between law enforcement agencies, but also communication between law enforcement and the District Attorney’s office.  The parishes that have found the most success so far have a designated “ROPES Coordinator” who serves as a liaison between the law enforcement office and the District Attorney’s office.  This coordinator walks each case through the entire legal process from start to finish ensuring successful prosecution of the repeat offender.

Although this program is in its earliest phase, many parishes have already seen positive results.  According to the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office, by taking the top 30 habitual offenders at a time, they have been able to get 333 cases closed, with 272 prosecuted with the following results: Eleven offenders (4%) were put on probation.  123 offenders, (45%) were sentenced from 0-4 years, 62 offenders (23%) were sentenced from 5-9 years, and 75 offenders (28%) were sentenced with 10 or more years, including five life sentences.

Hopefully, as additional parishes adopt the program, similar results will be found statewide.  The cooperative efforts between law enforcement and the legal community, combined with these new capabilities provided by modern technology should enable the law enforcement community to make a powerful impact in their efforts to deter crime. 

For more information:
Siegel, Larry J. Criminology. Cengage Learning. 2011.

Lauren Labbé Meher
Communications Director