This video cassette, number 18 in the Crime File series, describes the Repeat Offender Program (ROP) of the Washington, D.C., police department and a similar program that targets young offenders in Mecklenburg County, N.C. A panel discusses these programs and constitutional issues involved in their operation.
The ROP unit targets persons identified as repeat offenders and uses surveillance, informants, and 'sting' operations to catch them in some criminal act. In a panel discussion, Edward Spurlock, commander of the ROP unit, indicates that there is a 50 percent arrest rate for those targeted. He notes, however, that only about 38 percent of those arrested are eventually incarcerated. He blames this low percentage on the court system. In describing a similar program in Mecklenburg County, N.C., the moderator states that a point system is used to determine which offenders are to be targeted for special attention in the use of police and prosecutorial resources, in an effort to see that young repeat offenders are incapacitated before they can reach the peak of their criminal careers. Panelist Peter Gilchrest, a district attorney in Mecklenberg County, notes that persons identified as repeat offenders through the point system are not permitted to engage in plea bargaining, and an effort is made to develop conclusive evidence in the case. Further, the prosecutor requests the judge to give the maximum sentence in the case. Although neither of the programs has had cases dismissed because of unconstitutional police practices, panelist Leslie Harris, former director of the District of Columbia American Civil Liberties Union, advises that such programs must be careful in making sure that surveillance is based on probable cause and that 'sting' operations do not constitute entrapment.
Date Published: January 1, 1984