Quality Of Life Offenses
The term "quality-of-life" offenses is generally used to describe conduct that demoralizes community residents and business people because it involves acts that create physical disorder (e.g., graffiti or vandalism) or reflect social decay (e.g., prostitution). These behaviors may be merely minor annoyances to some people, but they can be major problems for the community. These acts may also be accompanied by nuisances that affect the communitys health and safety, such as noise and public urination. Although they are generally not serious enough to result in felony charges or to be the focus of large-scale enforcement operations, these misdemeanors and violations cause a great deal of misery to community residents. The Criminal Court Bureau has major responsibility for the prosecution of persons arrested for such offenses.
In 2004, we worked with the Center for Court Innovation to establish a Community Court, known as "Bronx Community Solutions," to enhance community service sentences and provide services to defendants. The goal of the project is to provide judges with more sentencing options for the many defendants convicted of non-violent, misdemeanor offenses such as marijuana possession, prostitution and shoplifting. By combining punishment with services, Bronx Community Solutions aims to hold offenders accountable while offering them the assistance they need to avoid further criminal conduct.
In 2006, Bronx Community Solutions worked with over 10,500 clients, a 67% increase in caseload over 2005. Clients of Bronx Community Solutions performed more than 70,000 hours of community service and provided services to the Bronx community such as painting over graffiti, cleaning streets and maintaining local parks. Participants attended over 700 social service classes taught by Bronx Community Solutions clinical staff and partner agencies. After completing their mandates, close to 1,300 participants accepted voluntary referrals for affiliated community-based programming for services, including vocational training and job placement, substance abuse treatment, health and mental health counseling, and housing assistance. By scheduling clients to begin community service immediately, identifying new community service partners, developing its own clean-up crew, and closely monitoring the work of clients, Bronx Community Solutions has created visible improvements to neighborhood conditions in the Bronx. These outcomes were achieved with compliance with court orders averaging about 70%.
This year the Domestic Violence Bureau (DV) and the Criminal Court Complaint Room staff continued to work closely with the Bronx Court Dispute Referral Center (CDRC) Program. This program assists thousands of people each year with quality-of-life disputes involving family members, neighbors, landlords and local merchants. Individuals in these cases are interviewed by CDRC staff and given referrals to various courts or other agencies, including professional mediation and arbitration services. Mediation provides a friendly forum that allows participants to vent their feelings openly, something they cannot do in court, and often removes a major obstacle to dispute resolution.
In 2006, Bronx CDRC cases represented 98% of the Citys total selected by District Attorneys Offices to be prosecuted in Criminal Court. This high rate of prosecution reflects the Bronx District Attorneys continued commitment to improving the quality of life for residents. Nearly all the cases referred for prosecution involved domestic violence.