California Police Chief- Fall 2013 - Page 19

The support of city management and city leaders has also contributed to the success of the program. “We went to them and said we are going to start a program like no other police department in the state is doing and we have no experience doing it,” said Chief Jones. “Not only did our leaders support it, they embraced it.” As a result of this effort, the program is gaining momentum and recognition as a successful model for other agencies to emulate. State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano recognized the program during a recent judicial committee for being an example of an innovative approach to provide positive community results. The F.R.S.T. team is comprised of two full-time police officers, one part- time probation officer, one community policing technician, and one police sergeant who work with community organizations focusing on finding employment for these individuals. Job training and placement are considered the best strategy to combat recidivism. The program is Fontana’s response to California Assembly Bill 109 (AB 109) implemented in October 2011. AB 109 impacted every community by transferring the burden of care for prison releases from the state to the local municipalities. The violent crime rate for the City of Fontana rose 14% during the first year following the implementation of AB 109 and property crimes rose 22% for the same time period. Comparatively for the same time period the State of California and the City of Fontana experienced the following recidivism rates: violent crimes 70%, sex crimes 90% and non-violent crimes 35%. The high recidivism rates and significant increase in crime that followed the implementation of AB 109 led officers to the realization that the old approach of incarcerating individuals and expecting them to successfully rejoin society upon release without support or resources was not realistic. The City of Fontana Police Department developed F.R.S.T. as an innovative approach to break the cycle of arrest, incarceration, release and re-arrest. Early results offer evidence that the program is working. After the re-entry team was implemented in September 2012, the city had a 10% reduction in part one crime from 2012 to 2013. The team focuses on identifying re-entry individuals (clients) that will benefit from the program in a variety of ways including: conducting monthly presentations at the local county jail to inform prisoners pre-release about the program, working with probation/parole officers to identify probationers and/or parolees that will turn to crime if they do not receive assistance, local outreach, and more. The partnership between police, probation, parole, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, and all governmental service providers is a groundbreaking approach to identifying potential clients and providing available resources. In addition, local judges, deputy district attorneys and public defenders are referring defendants sentenced to probation to the program. Clients are tracked and continuously offered support and assistance. F.R.S.T. officers work with nearly 200 governmental, non-profit public-based and faith-based organizations to ensure that clients have access to all of the benefits and resources needed to rejoin the community. F.R.S.T. accomplishments since its inception in 2012: • 256 workshop graduates • 106 job placements • 940 job referrals • 516 referrals to substance abuse and domestic violence classes • 213 referrals to government agencies for services (DMV, Child Support, Social Security) • 237 social services referrals including welfare and food stamps during transition phase of acquiring employment The concept is simple; keep individuals from reoffending by providing the proper tools to gain employment and make an honorable living. Charles Johnson received assistance through the program to enroll in machinist classes and graduated at the top of his class with four certifications. He later secured employment as a machinist with a local company. “There is no reason you can’t succeed unless you don’t want to,” said Johnson. “The officers and individuals involved in the program have all the resources and are willing to do whatever it takes to help you, which is why the program is a success.” With continued support from the multitude of partnering agencies, F.R.S.T. will continue to reduce crime and help clients become productive members of the community. The program is a win-win model for the city, county and region that exemplifies the unlimited possibilities when we all work together to improve the quality of life for future generations. ■ SPRING 2014 | California Police Chief 19