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New Success with Old Problems

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 49 Issue: 10 Dated: October 2001 Pages: 101-104
Stan Duncan
Date Published
October 2001
4 pages
This article describes the Court Watch Program, an innovative program established by the residents of the Gillespie Park neighborhood located in Sarasota, Florida, to identify repeat criminal offenders affecting the neighborhood and monitor their disposition through the criminal justice system.
The neighborhood of Gillespie Park in Sarasota, Florida, experienced a problem with street-level drug sales and prostitution. Community policing officers responded to residents’ calls. However, residents understood that police efforts were limited to arresting offenders, and agreed with police officers’ complaints about sentencing practices and the releasing of repeat offenders back into the community. In response, the residents of Gillespie Park developed the Court Watch Program to identify repeat offenders and monitor their disposition through the criminal justice system with four goals: (1) to heighten public awareness of negative effects of repeat offenders on the economy; (2) to promote prosecution to the fullest extent of the law; (3) to hold the criminal justice system accountable to the public through appropriate sentencing; and (4) to educate Court Watch volunteers and the community on the criminal justice process. An evaluation was conducted on the overall effect of the program and many successes were revealed. Some of these include the disappearance of street-level offenders, clear street corners, and increased property values. The concept of the Court Watch Program is seen as a neighborhood watch program that goes to court.