In an era of limited resources at all levels of government, a new federal-local collaboration between law enforcement agencies could help bring habitual violent offenders to justice.
U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett met with local officials Wednesday to announce a new collaboration that will focus on drug trafficking and on criminals who use firearms in their illegal activities.
"Here in Greencastle, I have asked police and prosecutors to help identify the 'worst of the worst' -- offenders with criminal histories who cycle in and out of local jails -- and decide who among those repeat offenders should be prosecuted under federal law for offenses that make the defendant eligible for stiffer sentences," Hogsett said. "Specifically the federal role, at least in my mind, should be identifying and to some extent prosecuting, those repeat, chronic, violent offenders."
The advantages to the federal justice system are in getting offenders off the street and keeping them away longer. Hogsett explained, those charged with a federal crime are detained until their time of trial and the sentences tend to be longer.
Additionally, federal offenders are turned over to the Bureau of Prisons, where the average offender serves 85 percent of the time to which he or she was sentenced. In the state prison system, most offenders serve 50 percent or less of their time. The offenders are also sent far away from where the crime was committed.
"That individual is taken completely away from whatever network of mischief and mayhem, criminal activity that they've been involved in," Hogsett said. "Often times that is a deterrent. Somebody doesn't want to be sent to Montana to serve out a 10-, 15-, 20-year sentence."
The program is not aimed at one-time offenders, but those who are habitually involved in violent crime. Hogsett said his office, along with other federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, Drug Enfor-cement Administration and Homeland Security Investigations would work with the Putnam County Prosecutor, Putnam County Sheriff and Greencastle Police Department to determine the "worst of the worst."
"What we're trying to do is work with local prosecutors to determine who we could prosecute federally, and in so doing serve a very important supportive and complimentary role in taking people off the street for maybe longer than they would be once Prosecutor (Tim) Bookwalter successfully prosecutes them under the state criminal justice system," Hogsett said.
He also emphasized local agencies are still charged with the safety of communities, but in the current era, collaboration benefits everyone.
"With the type of limited resources available to law enforcement, this kind of cooperation is no longer just good, it's necessary," Hogsett said. "If we're not information sharing and not resource sharing, then we're not effectively doing our job. The days of everybody staying in their own lane and doing their own thing are over."