Court Watch

Court Watch brings the community’s voice into the courthouse.

Court Watch is a collaborative, community-based approach to criminal justice. Concerned citizens partner with police, prosecutors, probation officers, and other resources to prevent and respond to public safety concerns.

The primary goals are:

  1. Hold offenders accountable for their crimes with a proportionate response from the criminal justice system
  2. Reduce and prevent new crimes in our community
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Court Watch process

Court Watch is one strategy to fight crime in our neighborhoods. It requires a group of concerned citizens willing to work within the criminal justice system and dedicate time to writing impact statements. These statements are particulaly effective at illustrating the negative consequences of so-called victimless crimes, such as how burglaries or drugs undermine the safety of a neighborhood.

How Court Watch works

  • Community members share their safety concerns with law enforcement and other criminal justice partners. They determine what types of crime the group should monitor.
    • An increase in burglaries, shots fired, drug dealing or prostitution in a neighborhood could lead to the formation of a Court Watch.
  • Representatives from the Minneapolis Police Department, Hennepin County Probation, Hennepin County Attorney's Office and Minneapolis City Attorney's Office establish a list of objective criteria to identify the most problematic offenders in the area.
  • Using these criteria, a list of chronic offenders is created.
  • These individuals are monitored by the Court Watch.
  • When a Court Watch offender is charged with a crime the group tracks that case through the court process.
  • Impact statements are requested at key times, such as sentencing, and submitted to the court to inform the judge of how this crime has affected the community.

Court Watch meetings

Criminal justice professionals and community members discuss specific offenders and give updates on:

  • Prior convictions
  • Police contacts
  • Arrests
  • Warrants
  • Custody status
  • Pending cases
    • Felony updates presented by County Attorney's Office
    • Misdemeanor updates by City Attorney's Office
  • Probation conditions and/or geographic restrictions
  • Housing
  • Eligibility for specialty programs such as Mental Health Court or Drug Court

Community members write impact statements that describe how they have been affected by these offenders and offenses.

Role of community

The community leads and drives a Court Watch.

Community participation includes:

  • Helping identify neighborhood crime concerns
  • A volunteer who serves as chair of the Court Watch and runs the meetings
  • Regularly scheduled Court Watch meetings that are open to the public
  • Writing community impact statements at meetings or through the Minneapolis Police Department Email Alert system
  • Sharing information about offenders and crimes with police and prosecutors at meetings and to the court through impact statements
  • Educating judges about the personal impacts of crimes, including home or garage burglaries

Community members working with criminal justice partners makes our neighborhoods safer.

Court Watch groups

Court Watch groups are active in every precinct of Minneapolis. Different neighborhoods have different challenges, and community input helps determine what types of crimes the group will monitor.

  • 1st Precinct and Downtown 100
  • 2nd Precinct Court Watch
  • 3rd Precinct - Franklin Avenue, Lake Street, Bloomington, and Little Earth
  • 4th Precinct Court Watch
  • 5th Precinct Court Watch
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