The Kankakee County State’s Attorney’s Office has prosecuted more felony violent offenders in the past four years than any other time in the county’s history, State’s Attorney Jim Rowe reported last week during the State of the County address.
“We’ve been more aggressive in our office than ever in prosecuting violent crime,” he said. “I’ve designated specially trained prosecutors to focus on topics such as domestic violence, sexual assault, stolen auto, DUI, complex narcotics, even animal abuse prosecutions.”
Those efforts ensure there is a trained eye reviewing every case prior to any charges being filed in the courthouse, he said.
The office has prosecuted 664 felony violent offenders so far this year and is on track to prosecute a total of 797 in 2020, Rowe said.
In 2019, the office prosecuted 925 felony violent offenders, the most ever filed in one year in the county’s history, he said.
The largest number of these felony offenses involve domestic violence-related charges (repeat domestic abuser, domestic battery with great bodily harm, or aggravated domestic battery involving strangulation).
The total prosecutions of felony violent offenders from 2017 to 2020 amounts to 3,243, about a 39 percent caseload increase over the previous four-year period, when 2,334 such offenders were prosecuted.
“That may seem like unwelcome news if you’re talking about the standpoint of statistics on crime or from a crime perspective,” he said. “But if you do a deeper dive into those numbers, what they tell you is that crime hasn’t necessarily increased countywide.”
Rowe said the office is still receiving approximately the same number of cases from local law enforcement agencies, but it is now in a better position to prosecute those cases. He attributes the increase in prosecutions to collaborative efforts throughout the criminal justice system in Kankakee County.
“All across the field really, everyone’s working so well together,” he said.
Rowe also shared Wednesday that, for maybe the first time in the office’s history, it is spending nearly as much on prevention and intervention initiatives as it is spending on prosecution, thanks to community partnerships and grants.
The total grant funding allocated toward prevention, intervention and advocacy efforts is now just over $1 million. The office’s general fund budget is $1,017,000.
He said these efforts are necessary to create a long-term public safety and violence reduction strategy.
He said grant funds from the Victims of Crime Act and the Violence Against Women Act help secure specialized training and equipment the office would otherwise not be able to afford out of its regular budget.
For example, the office now has an anatomically correct strangulation model, which allows experts to demonstrate the physical impact of being choked on a victim of domestic violence.
Grants also helped the office to engage a mobile victims witness unit this year, in which advocates travel throughout the county to provide resources to crime victims.
Lastly, in his address, Rowe issued a public call for mentors for the office’s juvenile mentoring program, JUMP, geared specifically toward court-involved youth.
Mentors would be asked to commit one to two hours per week for the program.
He asked community members and employers to also consider extending summer job opportunities to youth in the JUMP program. Those interested can go online to k3sao.com.
“The focus of that program is to reduce recidivism, trauma and entry into the adult criminal justice system on our juvenile offenders,” he said. “We really have the opportunity to show the nation, even, what Kankakee County can do and to lead by example.”