September 30, 2013

Jackson County aims to beef up efforts to fight violent crime

Jackson County officials said Monday they plan to redouble their efforts to fight violent crime. That includes adding prosecutors in Jean Peters Baker’s office and searching for and directing surplus COMBAT tax revenues to innovative programs aimed at reducing violence.

The COMBAT anti-drug sales tax was expanded with voter approval in 2009, to include anti-violence programs. Jackson County officials say they are now ready to work in earnest on fulfilling that pledge by underwriting innovative programs aimed at reducing violent crime.

Up to $500,000 in surplus funds could be committed under the program, County Executive Mike Sanders told county legislators on Monday. He said a request for proposals will go out Tuesday and funding requests are due back at the end of the month.

Also Monday, county Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said she was putting together a plan to reduce violent crime that could involve adding two prosecutors to her staff.

One new staffer would work exclusively with the Jackson County No Violence Alliance. The other would focus on gun crimes. Baker also wants to hire a paralegal to collect data on crimes committed with guns, and she is looking into the possibility of forming a court that would focus solely on gun crimes.

“Gun violence is really rocking the city,” Baker said. “It has for decades.”

Baker said the local homicide rate doesn’t seem to budge and 87 percent of those killings are committed with guns. Something different needs to be done to push those numbers down, she said.

Her request for additional personnel will be in her upcoming budget proposal. When all positions are filled, there are currently 49 prosecuting attorneys in her office.

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