Rochester police officers are tired of seeing the same offenders show up on arrest, jail and court lists over and over again. These so-called "frequent flyers" usually have substance abuse issues, and they're caught up in a cycle of offend and arrest that seems to end — temporarily — only with extended jail time.
Last week, though, the Rochester Police Department announced a new program that will attempt to break that cycle by giving individuals an opportunity to get into treatment for substance abuse.
"Our goal is not jut to arrest, but to fix it so you don't have to ever be arrested again," said Police Capt. John Sherwin.
People arrested buying, selling or in possession of drugs, will still be arrested, Sherwin said. The difference now, he said, is that officers will try to get the offender to recognize their problem and to get them into treatment.
The program includes an option for temporary housing for individuals who want treatment. The police department has a bed on retainer at Doc's Recovery House for men, and at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge for women.
That bed is available to an offender as they evaluate their treatment options.
This is, in our opinion, a forward-looking program that has potential benefits, not only for offenders, but for all of us. Police who aren't chasing, arresting and processing repeat offenders have more time to spend on other aspects of public safety.
At the same time, getting substance-abuse offenders clean gives them an opportunity to make positive contributions to their families and community.
For veteran police officers, this is a new venture. As Sherwin said, "We focus traditionally on the supply side of narcotics in our community, and that is something we are still aggressively doing."
But that supply never seems to dry up. This program attacks the issue from the other end, attempting to at least reduce the number of buyers and users.
Will it work? Anything that cuts the number of offenders and repeat offenders is a benefit to everyone involved — excluding dealers.
That's a bargain we are willing to make every time, and it's the reason we endorse this initiative as a major step forward for the police department.