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Community Prosecution in Washington, D.C.: The U.S. Attorney's Fifth District Pilot Project

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2001
53 pages
Publication Series
This study describes the origin and operation of the community prosecution pilot project in the District of Columbia and provides case studies of the observed results in two police beats.
The project began in June 1996 in the Metropolitan Police Department’s Fifth District. The project involved the assignment of 19 Assistant United States Attorneys to the Superior Court Division’s Community Prosecution Section to work exclusively on matters arising in the Fifth District. Trial attorneys were assigned to specific neighborhoods and handled a range of cases in that neighborhood. The study data came from interviews and observations from November 1997 to December 1998. The initial interviews involved all community prosecution attorneys in November and December 1997. Interviews and observations from December 1997 through the end of 1998 centered on the ongoing activities of attorneys, citizens, and police officers in the Fifth District. Results revealed that the benefit that attorneys most often mentioned was the enhanced ability to target individual problem defendants and linkages among criminals and events to make cases and solve crimes. However, targeting was only one aspect of a larger change in organizational capacity emerging in the Fifth District. The more general and more significant benefit of the community prosecution pilot project as it evolved in conjunction with the police department’s reform regarding patrol service areas was the emergence of the organizational capacity to work with citizens and police to implement crime control strategies matched to the crime problems of specific beats. Determining the statistical effect of prosecutors on the declines in crime would be difficult in that so much of what prosecutors do is a joint product of work with police and others. However, tracking monthly crime at the beat level and determining how citizens and the police regard community prosecution are ways for prosecutors to learn what they are contributing to crime control. Figures, tables, notes, appended table, and 25 references

Date Published: April 1, 2001