repeat offenders on the streets of Springfield

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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) – A Springfield man has been arrested for the 99th time after being arrested for allegedly stealing a catalytic converter last August, prompting a backlash from police and city leaders . How often does this happen in the justice system?

Western Mass News gets answers on how often repeat offenders are released back onto the streets.

In August, two Springfield men were arrested for allegedly stealing a catalytic converter from a vehicle. One of these suspects, Robert Larder, 51, had already been arrested 98 times. Western Mass News spoke with Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno at the time of the August 22 arrest.

“98…98 arrests!? and these two guys are still walking the streets? What the hell does it take to detain a criminal, let alone violent repeat offenders,” Sarno said in August.

Court documents show Larder was released on $500 bail and Springfield police say he has a habit of skipping court dates. Western Mass News dug deeper into Springfield’s criminal history and got answers to the question about how often repeat offenders are back on the streets, but the answer isn’t readily available.

We contacted the Massachusetts District Court and requested data on sentences handed down in Hampden County over the past year against those convicted of aggravated assault, robbery, and rape. We also asked for data relating to the bail requirement for these crimes. The trial court administrator responded to our request more than two weeks later and told us so in a statement. in part: “Such a compilation and analysis would be too cumbersome and would impair the ability of court staff to perform other essential tasks. Therefore, we cannot provide you with the requested data.

We then took our questions to Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni, who explained the difficulties in obtaining such information.

“Is this a common situation? Maybe not and it is very difficult to determine other results and anecdotally or what the trends are. As you discovered in the trial court, aggregating these numbers can be a challenge,” Gulluni explained.

In recent years, the District Attorney’s Office has seen an increase in the number of dangerousness hearings, which is a particular law that allows courts to detain suspects post-indictment for certain criminal offenses pending a hearing. on dangerousness. Gulluni said his office also repeatedly asks for high bail for repeat and violent offenders, but judges and defense attorneys often disagree.

“The test for whether bail is appropriate is not whether it is a punishment because it is not intended to be a punishment. The test is whether they will return to court based on what they post in relation to their financial situation and other factors the judge must consider,” defense attorney Joseph Pacella said. .

Pacella said there was more to Larder’s 98 indictments than viewing the criminal justice system as a revolving door.

“People need to focus on both issues. What you need to check is that the system is working? Do we prevent people from not coming back? It’s not meant to stop him from committing new crimes… You could have a million arrangements, but how are they solved? If there are 98 appearances of which 97 are rejected? There could be a whole bunch of default mandates. When were they default? Was there one in the 70s in the 80s and then the last 10 cases, the person showed up every time? A lot of this is considering the evidence,” Pacella noted.

Pacella also pointed out that when a judge sets bail, they take into consideration a defendant’s financial situation, which Gulluni said can be frustrating for those on the other side, especially when it comes to recurrences.

“We see in situations, despite our best efforts, these individuals are released and it is frustrating for the officers who do the work and make these arrests sometimes resulting from long investigations. It’s frustrating for the neighborhoods, where these individuals are, who come back and very often commit the same types of crimes, and do the same things they were doing again,” Gulluni explained.

However, Gulluni told us he believes judges are doing their best to protect people and their communities.

“It shouldn’t, and I believe it didn’t, change the way the court is supposed to look at dangerous offenders and repeat offenders and look at their case and see that person has been in and out of the system a ‘x’ number of times and defied probation ‘x’ number of times and committed another serious offence. The way the court views these situations has not changed and should not change,” said noted Gulluni.

We also spoke with Sarno, who explained how we contacted the trial court to find out how many repeat offenders were released on bail and how many were convicted.

“The trial court said it was a little too heavy for us. Just think how painful this has been for the victims and their families who have to live with this day in and day out and maybe see these despicable people on the street wreaking havoc on them and their families. That’s no excuse,” Sarno said.

Sarno told Western Mass News he works closely with the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, which has programs in place to get people back on track, whether it’s addiction or Mental Health.

“There are multitudes, multitudes of support programs that can help individuals if they want to do the right thing…I’m all for a second chance when it’s warranted. I have no patience, no understanding when it comes to re-offending violent or career criminals, career criminals affecting my residents no matter what color of creed or background and my businesses here in the city from Springfield with quality of life issues,” Sarno explained.

The prosecutor said his office is doing its best to improve that.

“We are here to protect public safety. We are here to work for the victims. We are here to do the right thing, but we have to be aware of the responsibilities to our communities and we have to show up in court every day, no matter what the judges or the defense lawyers do, first of all, do what it takes, but doing our best to protect people and work on behalf of our 23 towns and cities here in Hampden County,” Gulluni said.

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