Being smart on crime means we look at ways to keep repeat offenders off our streets, and we are doing so with a new and improved "impact offender" program. In conjunction with the Dallas Police Department and our elected district judges, we are targeting offenders who repeatedly fail to stop their criminal behavior. These impact offenders are tried within 60 days of indictment, and their convictions swiftly take them off our streets, out of our county jail and into the state penitentiary, thus creating a safer community and saving Dallas County taxpayers' money.
Being smart on crime also means that we are seeking the necessary resources to represent and protect citizens. We were fortunate to receive approval in the 2008 budget for funds that will pay for a prosecutor to handle cases of financial abuse against the elderly, which is a growing problem in our community. We also received federal grants to establish a gang unit and a sexual assault unit. The gang unit not only focuses on prosecution, but also on discouraging young people from getting involved in gangs. The sexual assault unit is supported by a $1.48 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women. This funding allows us to finally have a prosecutor, investigator and caseworker dedicated to handling sexual assault crimes.
We also have established a unit that works directly with the county's probation department, the constables and the Sheriff's Department to locate probation absconders and get them back into custody.
In addition, we have implemented a new policy for first-time, nonviolent misdemeanors. Offenders are now held accountable for their actions – often youthful indiscretions – by doing community service and completing educational courses. For drug cases, offenders must also pass two drug tests within a specific period. When these requirements are met, offenders' cases are dismissed, thus keeping marks off their criminal records that would inevitably put their future employment at risk. And as we know, when people can't find jobs, they typically move on to more serious crimes.