Any resident or business owner who notices trespassing, vandalism, lurking or loitering in their neighborhood can now let the court system know about what they’ve seen with just a few clicks of the mouse.
A new online initiative enables residents and business owners to file community impact statements via the Internet. The statements are designed to give residents and businesses a way to express directly to the criminal justice system how livability crimes affect their neighborhoods. The statements help prosecutors and judges better understand when a specific offender targets the same areas or commits the same crimes repeatedly.
“We’re hoping this can bring the community voice into the courtroom on some of these offenses sometimes seen as minor offenses by the court,” Assistant County Attorney Mary Ellen Heng said. “When you’re living in an area where someone is constantly urinating on your corner, it’s not so minor.”
After a community impact statement is filed, county prosecutors can present the statements to judges during sentencing. The statements can be taken into consideration when determining how to sentence offender.
Until the introduction of this online tool, residents had to file community impact statements in person at one of the five Minneapolis Police Department precincts. Now only Internet access is needed to file a statement.
In addition, residents will also be able to search a database of recent arrests online at the city attorney’s website. Residents can use this to look up prior livability crimes by the type of offense, the name of a suspect, street addresses or general location.
Statements can be filed on the city’s website at http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/attorney/impact-statements.asp. Residents are required to provide a name, phone number and e-mail address to file a statement, which the city can use to update the resident after final determinations are made in a case. If residents wish to make a community impact statement anonymously, they can file them in person at a police station.
“This holds both the county prosecutor and the bench accountable. If a case has been dismissed by a judge or a prosecutor, [the community] will want to know why,” Heng said. “It gives the community a voice, plus it helps hold the system accountable for these kinds of offenses.”