Repeat offenders taking up valuable police resources

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SARASOTA - Police say that all too often, when they confront criminals, they see repeat offenders. And if you wonder how people can get arrested so many times and spend so little time in jail, so does Sarasota's new police chief.

Chief Bernadette DiPino says that not only here, but across the country, the same people commit many of the same crimes over and over.

She says that the way her officers performed in Thursday's officer-involved shooting made her proud, but the fact they had to do it made her angry. “It's frustrating for me as a chief that I had six police officers that their lives were put in jeopardy because we have individuals with such an extensive criminal record and are dangerous out in our community,” says Chief DiPino.

Stephanie Hicks -- the woman police say drove the stolen car towards officers who had to shoot at it -- is no stranger to handcuffs, with 30 arrests before this one, police say. Charges include aggravated assault, car theft, and numerous busts for prostitution and drug offenses.

Drug addiction, police say, fuels many crimes. “So they need to go to rehab. We need to get them training and education to be able to get a job so that we're not dealing with the same individuals over and over again,” says DiPino.

“If the person has no motivation to change, we're wasting everyone's time.” Bryan Pope of the Salvation Army in Sarasota says that his organization is just one locally that offers drug treatment -- sometimes court ordered. But he says that nationwide, drug treatment programs can work as little as 10% of the time.

Success in Sarasota County is much better he says, but it relies on continuing support after rehab. “You don't come in, go through the program and then, good luck, you're on your way.”

Otherwise, they could be on their way to another encounter with police, who will be ready to meet again. “And the officers who work the street every day, they know who the repeat offenders are. We have a program where we track the most serious felonious offenders throughout our community, because we know they're going to be out there committing crimes.”

Of course preventing crime comes down to more complex things than just drug rehab. But police say that making arrests only calms the symptoms, it's getting at the root causes of crime -- like drug addiction -- that really offers a cure.