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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

George Gascón Targets Petty Theft, Mortgage Fraud

Posted By on Wed, Mar 2, 2011 at 4:18 PM

click to enlarge No new system of community courts after all?
  • No new system of community courts after all?

Recently appointed District Attorney George Gascón plans to expand use of community courts for petty scofflaws, while stepping up prosecution of white-collar crimes such as mortgage fraud, according to a new report.


Gascón's idea is to "develop a

neighborhood prosecution program that will enhance and expand the role of community courts in

responding to many of the non-dangerous, low-level crimes," according to the "District Attorney's Office 2011-12 Efficiency Plan," which was delivered to the Board of Supervisors this week.


"This year," the report says, the DA's office will "expand our Mortgage and Investment Fraud public education and prosecution initiative,

and expand our efforts to combat identity theft crimes and environmental crimes."


Gascón announced last month that he planned to "create an entirely new option for police and prosecutors," and that he hoped "to start rolling new courts within months," according to media outlets.


However, this week Gascón seemed to pull back from the idea of creating a new system of petty-crime-focused courts. It so happens that San Francisco already has several special, community-based courts focused on drug abuse, mental illness, and small infractions. Gascón's new report seems to mark a realization of this fact, and makes no mention of creating new community courts.

Instead, Gascón says he will increase emphasis on the system already in place.

According to the report:

"We

aim to place prosecutors out in the community and increase pre-charging referrals to community

court for low-level crime. San Francisco has numerous community courts in which volunteer

panelists hear low-level cases referred by our Office. The panelists utilize a restorative justice

approach, adjudicating cases though community service, restitution, or services for the offender.

Our Office restructure will include increasing the utilization of these courts to quickly resolve

low level crimes, increasing resident satisfaction and reducing costs."


While laudable, this seems a far cry from the new petty-crime court system he seemed to be proposing a month ago. We left a message with Gascón's spokesman requesting comment about whether he has pulled back from his ambitious plans announced in January. We'll fill you in when he gets back to us.

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Matt Smith

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