Local officials are looking to bring in outside perspectives to help the York County reduce criminal recidivism as well as youth gun and gang violence.
Pending grant approval from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, York's Criminal Justice Advisory Board plans to contract two consultants to assist the group working toward a solution for repeat and youth crime, said April Billet-Barclay, director of probation services.
Billet-Barclay said the goal is to draw from current resources, successful practices elsewhere and local officials to fight the two prevailing community issues.
Organizers are optimistic that sustained local effort can lessen the scope of both types of crime, but acknowledge their power is finite.
"There's always things that we can do within the existing framework," Common Pleas Judge John Kennedy said. "But if we really want to change this I think Pennsylvania needs a comprehensive criminal justice reform."
The problem: York County has one of the highest re-arrest rates in the state, at 49.4 percent, according to a 2013 state recidivism report.
Kennedy said part of the problem is a failure of the state Department of Corrections and the Department of Probation and Parole to work together or with local authorities.
"For years, Pennsylvania has been behind the curve," Kennedy said. "The prisons now have started to develop some effective re-entry programs, but the issue is once the person exits the prison doors, there isn't any follow-up."
More repeat criminals is a public safety issue, so it's everyone's concern, Billet-Barclay said.
"It's the whole community that's interested in reducing recidivism; it's not just about us working in the courthouse," she said.
Reducing youth gun and gang violence is another priority because both problems are major contributors to local crime, said David Sunday, senior deputy prosecutor in the district attorney's office.
Four of every five homicides in York City in the past decade were committed by individuals previously placed in the local Youth Development Center, according to the advisory board's grant proposal.
An ongoing effort: Sunday said current criminal justice efforts still require significant planning, but he is confident in results because of the board's record.
The group of about 20 local criminal justice decision-makers was behind the recent Target 25 program in which individuals arrested for two DUIs within 10 years are put on an alcohol-monitoring system intended to help them to stay sober while on bail.
Previously, the advisory board led an effort to redact court documents to protect defendants from identity theft.
Last week, the York County Commissioners approved the board to submit its $20,000 grant application to the state for the two consultants. Billet-Barclay said her department expects to hear back within about a month.
Sunday said bringing in consultants would help organize members but said the initiatives will proceed regardless; they just might take longer without the grant.
"We are working together to do everything we can to decrease gang and gun violence in our county and everyone onboard with this project cares deeply about the mission," Sunday said. "With the aid of a consultant we will be able to more efficiently and effectively reach that goal."
— Reach Michael Tabb at firstname.lastname@example.org.