The Olympia Community Court will expand its services — and potentially reduce local nuisance crimes — after receiving one of 10 grants from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.
The special city court will get $200,000 and technical assistance as part of the 2016 Community Court Grant Program.
With its problem-solving focus, community court allows defendants who commit “quality of life offenses” to perform service projects, such as painting over graffiti or cleaning up litter on public property.
Quality of life offenses include trespassing, urinating in public, pedestrian interference, failure to respond to a notice of infraction, littering, disorderly conduct, marijuana possession and use of drug paraphernalia. Other qualifying offenses include lower-level theft, driving with a suspended license and minor in possession of a controlled substance.
With the grant money, the Olympia court plans to contract with an on-site professional who can evaluate offenders for mental health and substance abuse issues.
“It’s going to certainly address a lot of the underlying factors as to why some of these crimes occur,” said Diane Whaley, public defense coordinator for the court. “This is going to have a significant impact.”
The grant requires the court to collect data to track the program’s success. In the future, the court may adopt services specific to veterans, Whaley said.
The Olympia Community Court began hearing cases Jan. 6. Volunteer partnerships that help offenders are set up with South Puget Sound Community College, Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council, SeaMar Community Health Centers and the SideWalk housing program.
The court meets 9 a.m. to noon Wednesdays at the Lee Creighton Justice Center, 900 Plum St. SE.