San Antonio/ Politics & Govt
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Published on February 26, 2024
Bexar County DA's Aggressive Push Cuts Felony Case Backlog by 11%Source: Facebook/Joe Gonzales District Attorney

In Bexar County, District Attorney Joe Gonzales has reported significant headway in reducing the district's swelling backlog of felony cases, a problem that has plagued the justice system since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. According to KENS 5, a plan enacted in November to address the bottleneck has cut down the backlog by 11 percent.

Powering through 6,330 backlogged cases, 45 prosecutors have taken to working after hours, and on weekends, to alleviate the pressure. Gonzales pointed out the overtime work as a response to violent incidents involving police last summer, which spiked criticism against his office. "We are focusing on violent offenses," Gonzales said, “We are focusing on everything we can do to keep our community safe.” However, despite the progress, the office is still grappling with substantial staffing shortages, currently with 14 vacancies.

The initiative, which has been backed by the allocation of $300,000 from the county commissioners, has already yielded results with 589 cases dealt with through indictments, rejections, or plea deals, as reported by Express News. The county's efforts concentrate on suspects charged with serious offenses such as felony firearm possession, assault, and drug crimes.

This rigorous push by Gonzales' office comes in the wake of several events last summer, where suspects with criminal records were responsible for the shooting, and injuring six police officers. "This initiative has been a huge success," Gonzales told the court, underscoring the motive to expedite reviews of cases involving violent offenders and to fend off dismissals or bail reductions due to lacking evidence. Despite the effort's expensive nature, only around $38,100 of the budget has been spent to date on overtime work.

Facing the issue head-on, the 'High-Risk Intake Team' established by the DA has shown a stout dedication to tackling the problem outside of traditional work hours. The impact is observable, as the backlog has been reduced from 6,330 to 5,647 felony cases and indictments are up by 74 percent over a comparative six-week period from the previous year, Gonzales proudly shared with county commissioners.