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Eastern Idaho counties explore SAUSA program

SAUSA program under review

POCATELLO, Idaho - City, county, and state lawmakers are hoping to bring a special U.S. attorney to eastern Idaho, aimed at taking more criminals off the streets.

On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney for Idaho Wendy Olson met with city and county leaders at the Pocatello City Hall Chambers to discuss the benefits of implementing the Special Assistant United States Attorney (SAUSA) program. 

"For each incarceration, the burden of the cost for each individual is now picked up by the federal government instead of the state," Olson said.

Those in attendance said high crimes that should be handled by a federal prosecutor are usually turned over to the county or state level if the local federal prosecutor has his plate full.

That means the county jails are housing criminals, such as those who have been caught transporting roughly 100 pounds of narcotics across the state, while they should be serving time in a federal prison.

Olson said since Idaho does not serve as a home to a federal prison facility, these individuals would then be sent to a facility out of state where they have less of a chance to cohort with other familiar gang members and they will also serve longer sentences. This would also keep repeat offenders off of the streets in local communities.

The Treasure Valley region has already implemented this program back in 2007 and reports it has already seen "unmitigated success" with the number of drive-by shootings and gangs down from when the program first started.

However, some local lawmakers such as Representative Neil Anderson from Bingham County, said he is on board, but questioned the funding.

Since the cost to implement the program could vary, the state will be asked to pay 75% of the overall cost, and each city will pay 25% of the rest of the cost.

But, Anderson said the state should not have to pay for a service the federal government should have provided.

Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper pointed-out that the federal government does not have the resources to provide this regional service, but it will make our streets safer in the long run.

Bingham County Prosecutor Cleve Colson said, while it's true we aren't seeing those levels of gang violence and drive-by shootings, we are still seeing a significant increase in the amount of drug trafficking coming through the state.

Right now, cities along with Sheriff's offices across the region won't be forking-over any money until the state legislature decides how to appropriate the funding. 

During Tuesday's meeting, the group decided if the state proposes a 50/50 percent split in funding responsibility, the group will reconvene and try to renegotiate.

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