This paper describes the genesis, activities, and nature of the community prosecution experiment in the Multnomah County (Portland, Ore.) District Attorney's Office; it then identifies critical elements of this new approach to law enforcement.
Six lawyers have been assigned to neighborhood offices to work with the community to solve the safety problems facing the community. A study of a Portland high-crime district found that citizens can articulate the problem in their community, but they do not understand the role of the traditional criminal justice system in addressing it. This role was assigned to the Neighborhood District Attorney. Generally, what Neighborhood DA's do is work with citizens and the police to help them figure out how to control the negative street behavior and low-level disorder crime that threaten public safety and order in neighborhoods. Part of what they do is provide answers, feedback, and explanations, especially explanations about why police, under the law, cannot do what citizens think they ought to be able to do to address offensive street conditions. Their core activity, however, is to develop alternative ideas regarding what police and citizens can do about low-level crime and disorder that destroy the sense of safety and order citizens wish for community life. This effort by the Neighborhood DA includes acting as a facilitator, legal counselor, negotiator, problemsolver, and community advocate to develop solutions and action plans. Just as in community policing, Neighborhood DA's work is problem-oriented rather than incident-oriented. An example of how Neighborhood DA's work in Multnomah County is provided.
Date Published: January 1, 1996
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