Massachusetts Association of Crime Analysts > Blog > 2016 > January > 14 > Armed Career Criminals

Armed Career Criminals

Are you familiar with the Armed Career Criminal Law? Essentially the Armed Career Criminal Law is designed to target offenders who are known for gun-related violent crimes and/or serious drug offenses. The law allows stricter, lengthier sentences to be imposed once these offenders pass a certain threshold for these particular types of convictions. You can read more about the details of the Armed Career Criminal Law here: https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartIV/TitleI/Chapter269/Section10G

Because we know it’s a relatively small “few” who account for the majority of these types of offenses, this is a great tool for Courts to use to keep these types of offenders off of our streets for greater periods of time. If used judiciously (pun intended) it can effectuate real long-term reductions in gun violence and drug related crimes.

But what can the analyst do? Clearly you’re not going to BOP every known offender in your jurisdiction and hand tally their convictions to see who might be on the edge of reaching enough convictions to qualify. And unless you have the capacity to electronically query your Courthouse’s records for case dispositions (you might have better luck finding a magical Unicorn), then you’re probably wondering how you can help your agency when it comes to identifying serious offenders who might be ideal for future prosecution under ACCL.

While we might not be able to query conviction data, we can do the next best thing which is to use Police Data to identify those whose arrest charges point to the possibility of there being enough qualifying convictions to move forward with trying someone under ACCL for future qualifying offenses (you know… assuming they haven’t turned their lives around and are now living a crime-free life). This way we can at least narrow our focus and come up with a list of offenders to have on our radar should they commit another ACCL qualifying crime.

First, you’ll want to create a collection of all the applicable charges which you will use in your query. I’m still in the process of working with my Commanders to finalize the list, but to start I suggest being more inclusive than exclusive. You can always fine-tune your list of charges later once you have the query in working order. So go ahead and gather your gun-related charges as well as your drug offenses, mainly those pertaining to the possession, manufacture, and distribution of controlled substances. 

Next create a query that fetches all the people with arrests involving these charges and tally them up.  At minimum we’re looking for two qualifying violent crimes, 2 qualifying drug offenses, or any combination thereof that adds up to two but which arise from separate incidences. The list that results will be a good starting point. You can now get input from Officers as to who on that list your Town or City would benefit most from being put away for a longer period of time the next time they commit a similar offense. You can also sort these by each person’s most recent activity date and number of recent incident involvements to flesh out the ones who are most active right now. The more you dive in to your data, the finer you will be able to tune the list to a manageable number of offenders who might be exactly the types of candidates for whom the Armed Career Criminal Law was intended. With the blessing of your superior, start running directed BOPs (or have an Intern do it) and see if these individuals have the number of convictions needed to qualify for prosecution under ACCL. Once you've finalized your list using conviction data, these are people your Officers will want to keep on their radar, particularly your violent crime Detectives and Vice Officers. And as an analyst, you’ll have helped your Department keep its commitment to reducing gun violence and drug crimes by providing a very specific focus that can effectuate real long term reductions.

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