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Program would target causes of crime as alternative to jail

Posted at 5:47 PM, May 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-07 19:43:08-04

CINCINNATI — There were nearly 2,000 crimes reported in Cincinnati last month. Now, a proposed pilot program is intended to beat crime by addressing the root causes.

The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, or LEAD, is designed to get help for people who commit crimes, instead of just throwing them in jail. If approved, the pilot would allow police officers an alternative to arresting low-level offenders. Instead, officers could refer them to case managers who would help address underlying issues leading to crime, like homelessness, addiction and mental illness.

Chris Cushard was once locked up. But now, at 25, he's clear and has a job.

"When I was like 20 is when I got into really heavy drugs," he said. "Heroin, meth, whatever. And it all started going down hill."

A diversion program like LEAD could have been a game changer for Cushard, he said.

"If I was given an opportunity to go to a rehab, I would've been a lot better off sooner, instead of sitting in jail, just sitting there," he said.

The potential pilot program would be an effort between Cincinnati and Hamilton County. Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard is pushing things on the city side.

The program already has about $500,000 in federal funding, but it still needs full approval by the City Council. They're scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether or not to launch a feasibility study, to determine what, if any, additional resources are needed.

"We have to look at public safety beyond how many police and how many arrests," she said.

Trina Jackson with the Hamilton County Office of Reentry said LEAD can help stop the cycle of what she called "frequent flyers."

"They're coming in and out of jail because they aren't getting what they need in the community as treatment support," she said.