|Neighborhood District Attorney Program helps residents battle crime in their neighborhoods
Since its inception in 1990 the Neighborhood District Attorney Program has become a model for cities in the USA and abroad
Sean P. Nelson
FOR THE MID-COUNTY MEMO
Helping residents and officers of Portland Police Bureaus East Precinct take back their neighborhoods from criminals is the goal of Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Robyn Springer.
After clerking for a year she got a job as an intern in Portland. Upon graduation in 1999 she got her first job with the Multnomah County District Attorneys Office. As a new District Attorney she began with misdemeanor trials and progressed to DUII cases involving the county.
She then was assigned as a Neighborhood District Attorney at North Precinct dealing with property crimes. In February of 2002 she was assigned to be the Neighborhood District Attorney for both East and Southeast Precincts.
She divides her time between the two precincts and works 40-plus hours per week. Her salary is $60,000 plus benefits. She currently serves as a liaison between police; the District Attorney s Office and the community.
My primary mission is to improve the quality of life for East Precinct residents by addressing public safety concerns. My goal is to assist in investigation and eventual prosecution of crimes so the community is a safer place, Springer said.
This includes identifying criminal trends in the neighborhood and working with police and the community to solve them. Sometimes Springer may be formally called upon to prosecute an offender.
For example a major problem facing East Precinct is methamphetamine trafficking and use. Rampant drug use has driven property crimes, car prowls, burglaries and shoplifting. My impression is that most of it is fueled by methamphetamine use and a desire to buy or trade items for drugs, Springer said.
She has also prosecuted shoplifting cases for stores such as Fred Meyer and Mervyns during which defendants will readily admit they were stealing to pay for their drug use. Heroin is also a big problem in East Precinct, she said.
In addition to working with the community on such problems, she also advises officers in East Precinct on different aspects of search and seizure law, reviews search warrants, and advises officers on such matters as how to make a potential criminal case stronger, telling them to interview a certain witness for example. Springer does not actually solve crimes, and her caseload is limited to criminal cases.
Multnomah County District Attorney Michael D. Schrunk established the Neighborhood District Attorney Unit in November 1990. Similar to traditional community prosecution programs, which emphasize a closer working relationship among prosecutors, police and the community, the Neighborhood District Attorney Unit uses the tools of the criminal justice system to demonstrate how the rule of law can help neighborhoods become safer. The Neighborhood District Attorney Program covers the entire city through financial support from Multnomah County, the City of Portland, federal grants, and local business groups and Tri-Met.
A tribute to the programs success came in 2000, when the U.S. Department of Justice selected the Multnomah County District Attorneys Office as one of two National Leadership Sites for its progressive work in community prosecution.
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