This summer, Albany leaders have announced the city will become the third in the nation to initiate a Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program. The new LEAD program gives police the discretion to arrest offenders for certain low-level crimes but also provides officers with the option of directing offenders to case managers who would determine an appropriate course for rehabilitation. The goal is to help reduce economic and racial disparities in the number of arrests and re-arrests across the board as well as to better allocate police resources and thereby alleviate some of the strain on local law enforcement.
Many of those arrested for low-level offenses cycle in and out of the prison system without ever getting the help necessary to treat the underlying causes of their criminal activity. Very often, these offenders are arrested for things like non-violent drug crimes, petty theft, shoplifting, and prostitution. Programs like LEAD are designed to provide such offenders with access to mental health treatment, addiction counseling, housing, and skills training programs that will help them transition into a mainstream lifestyle and stay out of jail. “An example would be somebody shoplifting,” said Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox. “They’re committing a petit larceny. But what is causing them to shoplift? Are they shoplifting to afford their addiction? If that’s what they’re doing, aren’t we better off getting them into services, instead of getting them to criminal court?”
The announcement this summer was the result of a yearlong effort on the part of Albany lawmakers, law enforcement, and community leaders. So far, the initiative is still in its early stages and the source of funding has yet to be determined. The program was launched in Seattle four years ago and has since seen positive results, with a 60% decrease in recidivism rates. Santa Fe has also implemented the program. Other cities around the United States are watching to see the results from these pilot programs before deciding whether to launch similar programs of their own.
Because the decision to divert an offender is discretionary, not every offender will be directed to the alternative program and some will inevitably face criminal charges. In such cases, it is important to be represented by an experienced and skilled attorney. Contact Rosenblum Law Firm as your first line of defense.