Ninety four per cent of the "career criminals" who have run into "Operation Doorstop" and been indicted have been convicted again, according to figures released yesterday.
"This kind of program removes people from the street (who) make people afraid to walk the streets," said D.C. Police Chief Maurice J. Cullinane in an interview.
The figures on the special prosecutor-police unit "looked good," Cullinane said, but he cautioned that the program would not solve all of the city's crime problems.
Federal prosecutors and the Metropolitan Police Department set up the program in August, 1976, because of growing public concern that repeat offenders were slipping through the criminal justice system and regaining their freedon.
The figures released yesterday showed that 93 per cent of those in "Operation Doorstop" who are awaiting court action on their cases are in jail.
"Our goal has been to incarcerate dangerous repeat offenders and we are accomplishing this," said Carl S. Rauh, the principal assistant U.S. attorney.
He characterized the career criminal program as a "tremendous and unqualified success (that) has made Washington a safer place to live."
During its first year, the program handled 320 cases in which repeat offenders, on probation, parole or some other form of release, were arrested for crimes of violence, including murder, armed robbery, rape and burglary.
About 90 per cent of the suspects prosecuted by the unit were indicted, and 94 per cent of those indicted were convicted, Rauh said.
The career criminal unit is made up of four assistant U.S. attorneys and six experienced police detectives. The unit is headed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel J. Bernstein.
Each day, detectives arrive at D.C. Superior Court at 6:30 a.m. to review police records on overnight arrests. They then determine which cases should be assigned to the career criminal unit. The decision is based on the defendant's prior criminal record and whether he was on some kind of release at the time of arrest, Bernstein said.
When cases are fully developed, they are presented to a special grand jury, which reviews only career criminal cases, Bernstein said.
As a result, the average time between arrest and indictment for career criminal cases is 28 days, compared to an average of 63 days for other felong cases that are presented to regular grand juries, he said.
The cases assigned to the career criminal unit primarily involved robberies and burglaries, according to the yearly report on the unit's operations.
Robbery convictions ended in average sentences of five to 14 years in prison. Defendants convicted on burglary charges received average sentences of three to 12 years in prison, according to the report. These sentences are "more severe" than those imposed in noncareer criminal cases, Berstein said.
Bernstein said that as a result of the unit's efforts, a greater percentage of these defendants are being detained before trial than in the noramal court routine.
This is being accomplished through increased use of a procedure called a "five-day hold." In these cases, defendants who are found to be on probation or parole at the time they are arrested can be held without bond five days, pending review of their release status.
Over the past year, those reviews have been accomplished faster because of improved coordination between the prosecutors, the judges and the probation and parole officials, Bernstein said.
Figures show that 280 of the 320 defendants whose cases were assigned to the career criminal unit have been incarcerated.
"The word is on the street," Bernstein said, that the courts and police have stepped up their effort to lock up career criminals both before and after trial.
In July, a second career criminal unit was established on an experimental basis in the Superior Court's misdemeanor division, Culliane said. Two assistant U.S. attorneys, a detective and a paralegal assistant have been assigned.
The misdemeanor program will concentrate on such crimes as assaults, shoplifting, petit larceny and weapons charges involving repeat offenders, the police chief said.
The purpose is to focus on offenders who are "literally crime waves," but who do not committ offenses serious enough to warrant the attention of the felony career criminal unit, Culliane said.