Freeport – When it comes to the office of Stephenson County States Attorney, one might be hard pressed to find a resident in the county who won’t affirm that the experience required to be head of such a high and influential public office, most definitely matters.
When it comes to the balance between prosecutor and community leader, experience does matter.
One of the candidates up for Stephenson County States Attorney is Anthony Coon. In his 16 year plus career as an attorney, Anthony has handled hundreds of court cases in many court houses and at many levels.
The Stephenson County State’s Attorney can be part of improving the economic prospects of our county by reducing crime in the communities. While most view the position simply from a prosectorial standpoint, the position also holds the responsibility to build a new level of trust and connection between law enforcement and the community it serves.
It also holds the responsibility to work with other community leaders and directly within the office to develop and work on ways that reduce crime, rather than continue to be a system that just responds to it. The earlier we address the issues in a person’s life that are causing them to commit crime, the more likely we are to rehabilitate the behavior. It’s just common sense.
Throughout years of studying law enforcement, Anthony says that he has noticed that the idea of community policing and bike patrols, in isolation, are rarely successful. “Freeport has been trying these types of outreach programs for years with limited success. Instead of creating community connection, the residents of neighborhoods who are served, feel over policed“, he says.
Anthony says that he has heard this while on the campaign trail talking with area residents, but says he witnessed it firsthand Friday night February 5th while at a Freeport High School basketball game.
On Friday an individual allegedly brought a gun to the basketball game. As the game was ending, the police had showed up and the person had fled the area while the police were pursuing him. The actions caused quite a stir. People were everywhere. No one knew exactly what had happened and the police showed up in force.
Anthony states, “Ironically, as the police were trying to secure a crime scene, apprehend a criminal, and protect us, the officers were met with resistance. The behavior and comments I observed by members of our community were embarrassing. The police handled it well but the bottom line is, a part of the community felt oppressed, not served.”
Anthony says his plan to attack crime in the neighborhoods is to build a new level of trust and connection between law enforcement and the community it serves. One way to do that he says is through the idea of a Community Court.
In this idea, the City of Freeport, the State’s Attorney’s Office, and community organizations such as churches, charities, and neighborhood watch programs team up to provide a small group of neighborhood courts. Quality of life offenses like noise and disorderly conduct get referred to neighborhood courts where the people of the neighborhood dispense a just sentence (community service) that helps the neighborhood.
This will allow police to work more directly with the community courts. Community courts get to work directly with the people committing the offenses. The neighborhoods benefit from the results of policing through controlling the behavior as well as the service performed.
Anthony says being tough on crime is easy. Being smart against crime takes effort and he adds, “with all my proposals, there is no need for additional financial burdens on the county, just a new way of looking at our processes to maximize efficiency“.
Another idea Anthony proposes is to evaluate the need for probation referrals and services. He states, “Currently, Stephenson County performs the vast majority of its probation evaluation services after a defendant is found guilty of a crime. That time period is months and months after the criminal behavior.”
As part of the plan Anthony would propose a simple change. Do “intake evaluations” at the time of the first court hearing. Anthony states, “Stephenson County is one of only a handful in the state that does most of its evaluations after guilt. The vast majority of Illinois counties do Intake Evaluations.”
The work of evaluation is basically the same. The difference is the Intake Evaluations are done quickly to ensure service needs match bond conditions and that there is some guidance as to the appropriate disposition (probation, detention, treatment, etc.). This is about more than just when evaluations are performed, it is also about what type of evaluations are performed.
According to a 2014 Illinois Supreme Court Report, Stephenson County is the second highest county in the state for performing a “Records Check.” “We do more Records Check than Cook County and 101 other counties“, says Anthony. “The problem is that the Records Check only asks what crimes an individual has committed. It does not look at other factors like drugs, alcohol, violent tendencies, mental health, and other factors that contribute to crime“, says Anthony. “If we do not attack root causes, we are not going to reduce criminal behavior.”
Along with Anthony’s plans, he says he also brings the professional and personal experience to the position that the office of Stephenson County States Attorney needs.
In 2007 Anthony was asked by (now retired) Stephenson County 15th Judicial Circuit Judge Theresa Ursin, to represent the worst of the worst criminals in Stephenson County. Anthony was appointed by Judge Michael Bald to represent multiple criminals in trials and local appeals involving conflicts with our public defender’s office. Anthony has also been appointed and privately retained in countless juvenile delinquency and abuse cases. In at least one case, he defeated our current State’s Attorney in a juvenile delinquency trail.
As a private attorney Anthony defeated John Hay at a jury Trial. Hay was an assistant in Stephenson County and is currently the Jo Daviess County State’s Attorney. In addition, Anthony’s professional experience includes numerous civil trials, contract disputes, personal injury cases, divorce, collection suits, evictions and other cases that make up the vast experience Anthony brings to the office of Stephenson County States Attorney in his 16 years of practice. This also does not include any of the cases Anthony has prosecuted for the City of Freeport over the last 20 months.
The Stephenson County State’s Attorney can be part of improving the economic prospects of our county by reducing crime in the communities. Anthony is a lifelong resident of Stephenson County.
If you would like to reach out to Anthony Coon you can do so via telephone at (815) 235-2212, or visit Anthony Coon for States Attorney Facebook page here.
Early voting has started and runs until March 14th. Early Voting is located in the Stephenson County Election Office in the lower level of the Stewart Centre, 50 West Douglas Street. Early voting is open Monday – Friday 8:30am – 4:30pm and on Saturday, March 12th from 9:00am – 12:00pm. The offices is closed on February 12th and February 15th.