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Biden: New Crime Strategies Unit Will Prevent Crime on Local Level; Expand on Past Success of Attorney General’s Program that Shuts Down Crime-Infested Properties

Date Posted: Monday, May 19th, 2014
Categories:  Criminal Department of Justice Press Releases

Attorney General has proposed allocating $1 million from settlement with JPMorgan Chase to fully fund new unit for three years as part of plan to strengthen Delaware’s communities

WILMINGTON – Fully funding the Department of Justice’s new Crime Strategies Unit will strengthen and expand an already successful program that will help neighborhoods throughout Delaware, Attorney General Biden said Monday.

Biden created the Crime Strategies Unit earlier this year to focus on crime prevention in communities and neighborhoods, including expanding the program he launched in 2007 to shut down and rehabilitate crime-infested properties, such as drug houses. The Unit’s first major effort paid off last week with the closure of a national outlaw motorcycle gang’s clubhouse in Wilmington.

“The Crime Strategies Until will strengthen Delaware’s communities by focusing on preventing crimes before they occur,” said Biden, adding that the Crime Strategies Unit will have an office in a local community center to help connect with local residents. “This type of community prosecution has been proven to work around the country and we are looking forward to what it can do for Delaware.”

Biden and Gov. Jack Markell have proposed using $1 million from the recent settlement that Biden’s office secured with JPMorgan Chase to fully fund the Unit’s personnel and operations for three years. Biden’s office secured the funding last year as part of a settlement to resolve claims that JPMorgan Chase misled investors about the risk level of mortgage-backed securities.  The funding would pay for the Unit’s staff for three years – three prosecutors, one of whom would focus specifically on cases in Kent and Sussex counties, one paralegal and one resource coordinator. Deputy Attorney General Dan Logan will head the Unit.

Overall, the Attorney General and Governor’s Office are proposing to use $12.1 million from that settlement to revitalize neighborhoods, rebuild residential communities and ensure accountability with the state and national mortgage-lending laws. The General Assembly’s Joint Finance Committee, which writes the state’s annual operating budget, begins two weeks of work on the spending plan tomorrow and will likely vote on the plan for the settlement funds before the end of next week.

“These funds must be used to help Delaware communities that have been hit hardest by the housing crisis,” Biden said. “The historic number of foreclosures Delaware experienced during the housing crisis has left vacant properties that have become havens for criminal activity. The Crime Strategies Unit will work with local residents to shut down these properties and make neighborhoods safer.”

Biden’s initiative to clean up and rehabilitate crime-infested properties has made communities throughout Delaware safer since he launched the program in 2007 – the Crime Strategies Unit will build upon that success and do more to eliminate situations that attract criminals. Last year, for example, the Attorney General’s Office shut down a property on Memorial Drive in New Castle that was a hotbed of criminal activity – in less than four years, New Castle County Police were dispatched to the property at least 177 times, arresting at least 40 different people for drug, prostitution, and other crimes.  In Dover, for example, Biden’s office has trained more than 100 landlords on how to prevent crime on their properties and to explain to them that they will be held accountable if they allow their properties to become criminal havens. The City of Dover recently enacted a local ordinance requiring this training.

Fully funding the Crime Strategies Unit, Biden said, would help areas such as Edgemore in Wilmington, which has a high number of rental properties and suffers from illegal drug activity and other criminal behaviors. The Crime Strategies Unit would target landlords who turn a blind eye to criminal activity as well as help property owners who want to be part of the solution to keep their properties in better condition. The Crime Strategies Unit would also be working with nonprofit organizations, the corporate community and local law enforcement to remove the blighted, vacant and derelict rental properties and replace them with refurbished homeowner occupied units.

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