For Immediate Release
September 19, 2018
CRIME VICTIMS GET FREE RIDE TO COURT AT CRIMINALS’ EXPENSE USING MACOMB COUNTY PROSECUTOR’S NEW TECHNOLOGY
Mount Clemens, MI – Macomb County Prosecutor Eric J. Smith today announced what is likely the nation’s first program to use new technology called “Uber Central” to provide free rides from home to court and back for crime victims and witnesses. Under Smith’s plan, crime victims get personal chauffeurs to court as he seeks to reduce delays and dismissals that can occur when crime victims or witnesses lack transportation to get to court. Thanks to new technology from Uber, witnesses do not even need to own a smartphone. Smith said his office plans to seek reimbursement as part of court-ordered restitution costs paid by convicted defendants.
“We are literally going the extra mile to fight crime,” said Smith. “Using new technology, my office is helping crime victims get a ride to court. We can monitor their ride progress, and even greet our witnesses when they get dropped off at court. Crime victims deserve respect, and helping them get to court is one way we show that respect.”
Smith said a court case can be delayed or even dismissed when a crime victim or witness fails to appear and testify in court, which may happen if a crime victim has no transportation.
Alisha Steward of Macomb Township, the victim in an assault case, said, “I felt safe getting a ride because I was worried that if I used my car, someone who knows my car could have followed me home from court.” She benefited from Smith’s crime victim service by receiving a ride home from the Mount Clemens Circuit Court last December.
“The service was a blessing. I enjoyed it. I felt very secure. It’s a great, great thing,” said Pamela Evich, who used the service to get to court to testify in a Home Invasion case in Clinton Township District Court in July.
“It was very convenient because I did not have a way to court,” said Keiairra Carter, who used Smith’s new service to testify in an unarmed robbery case in Eastpointe this month. The case might have been dismissed if she had not appeared.
“It was very helpful because I cannot drive due to injuries I suffered as the victim of a crime,” said a crime victim whose name is being withheld at his request, and who used the service in April to get to the Clinton Township District Court. “The service was excellent. It worked like it was supposed to work.” He is a stabbing victim. If he had not appeared in court prepared to testify, it’s possible the felony case could have been dismissed and his alleged attacker could have been released. He and his brother used Smith’s crime victim service to get from home to court in Clinton Twp.
When a crime victim does not have a ride to court, Smith’s Crime Victim Advocate team may now use new technology called Uber Central to request a ride on the crime victim’s behalf. No smartphone, no problem. The Uber Central service automatically calls crime victims on their home phone when their ride is coming, and lets the Prosecutor’s Office know witnesses are on the way to court on time.
Sometimes a police department will give a crime victim or witness a ride to court to testify. Smith’s new service is helping police spend more time keeping our community safe, by reducing the need for police to spend time transporting witnesses to court. Some witnesses do not want neighbors seeing a police car coming to their house to take them to court, and Smith’s service helps crime victims with that concern.
Smith said his office started testing the new Uber Central service in April of last year. For court hearings on days when Smith’s crime victim ride service was used, none of the cases involved were adjourned or dismissed due to a crime victim failing to appear in court. Since April 2017, crime victims and witnesses have used the service to make 110 trips to or from their homes and the various district courts in Macomb County, and the circuit court, at a cost of $2,516.13, which includes some trips where witnesses were picked up from Detroit Metropolitan Airport to testify. Criminals pay the costs. For future cases, Smith said his office will seek reimbursement as part of court-ordered restitution costs paid by convicted defendants. On cases where a defendant cannot pay, trips will be paid for from forfeiture funds seized from criminal activity. Smith said it’s a small cost for a big benefit in the fight against crime.
“It worked great!” said Gary Laight of Warren. He did not have transportation, and last year used the new service to get to court with his son, who was the victim of a robbery and suffered a fractured leg. “We got a text a message when ride was on the way. We were picked up at home and dropped off on time at the courthouse. It was convenient and helpful.” Had his son been unable to appear in court, it’s possible the case, alleging unarmed robbery, a 15-year felony, might have been dismissed.
“I was able to make it to the court without missing my date. It really helps when people don’t have transportation,” said Laura Petrey of Warren, whose ability to testify helped in a retail fraud case last October.
Uber launched Uber Central in 2016 as a new way for businesses to connect with their customers. Businesses can use the service to request, manage, and pay for multiple Uber rides on behalf of their customers. Smith has adapted this business technology for government service in the fight against crime.