Chronic offenders program keeps criminals off the streets



Posted on May 21, 2014 at 7:43 PM

SPOKANE, Wash.-- Police began aggressively tracking chronic offenders in March through a program that helped criminals get back on their feet and stay-off the streets.

One of the participants was arrested again in May for burglary charges. The 12-time convicted felon, Lelbert Williams, cried and apologized to police officers who offered to help him get a job and find shelter after his release.

Williams was arrested for breaking into two homes in west Spokane before attempting to break into two more and trying to steal a car.  Williams said he was just trying to get shelter and called it a “small crime” during a jailhouse interview.

The chronic offender unit said a 12-time convicted felon, like Williams, was at high-risk to re-offend. During Williams' first court appearance, the unit pleaded with the judge to keep him locked-up. 

“Because of his history and the amount of charges he was facing, they asked for a bond of $120,000,” said Lieutenant Tracie Meidl.

Bonds for people facing the same charges are typically much smaller according to police. 

Police said 30 other convicts, just like Williams, were being tracked by the chronic offender unit. Knowing they would all eventually end up back on the streets, the unit focused on getting them help.

“Whether it’s substance abuse, treatment facilities, employment, housing,” Meidl explained.

Meidl said the majority of chronic offenders accepted the resources officers offered to them.  The program led to a 30% decrease in residential burglaries in only two months.

“I would say to any victim of a burglary that we are noticing, we are taking action we are stepping in the right direction,” Meidl said.

The department designated chronic offenders as those most likely break the law again whereas repeat offenders were classified strictly by their number of convictions.