CHARLESTON - Mississippi County has adopted a policy of zero tolerance for violent firearms-related felony cases, according to the county's prosecutor.
"Mississippi County has seen too many crimes involving firearms recently and something needs to be done so that the community knows that law enforcement is working to keep them safe," said Prosecuting Attorney Jennifer Raffety.
"People that choose to use guns and intimidate people with violence do not belong on probation; they deserve to be in prison," Raffety said. "Hopefully through the implementation of this policy, defendants who decide to use a gun will have a better idea of what will happen to them when they are prosecuted."
The policy, drafted by Raffety and Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Spencer after meeting with local law enforcement officials, states that effective Nov. 1, the prosecutor's office will refuse to offer, agree to or recommend probation for any violation of the criminal code that involves the use of a firearm and to seek incarceration for any other felony offense or violent crime that involves the use of a firearm.
The prosecution initiative will be spearheaded by Spencer who was hired May 1 with federal grant funds through the U.S. Department of Justice specifically to prosecute firearms-related crimes.
"The message that needs to be sent out is that Mississippi County will not tolerate crimes that are committed with a firearm," Spencer said. He added that efforts are under way to coordinate local law enforcement and federal agencies to streamline the investigation and prosecution of firearms cases in the county.
"Our goal with this new policy in place will be to hopefully deter criminals from using a firearm during the commission of a crime through the swift certainty of criminal prosecution," Spencer said.
He encouraged anyone with questions or concerns about firearms laws to contact him. "Many people are confused when it comes to interpreting firearms laws," Spencer said. "Our goal is not to punish the law abiding citizen but rather to punish those criminals who decide to use weapons against others."