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Crimewatch: Cops patrol with prosecutors in new program

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Fighting crime is a team effort. While police catch the bad guys, it's the prosecutors who put them behind bars.

In a historic move, the Travis County District Attorney's Office is now sending its lawyers out in patrol cars with police.

Chris Cato's day is already different than his fellow Austin Police officers. It doesn't have anything to do with the car break in call he's responding to in Del Valle. It has to do with the man who is riding out with him for the day.

John Lopez says no one knows who he is when he shows up at a crime scene. But he's a crime fighter too. Lopez is a Travis County Assistant District Attorney. He rides out with officers as part of a new program.

Lopez says seeing the crime scene and meeting the victims helps him with the handling of the case.

"When you see a crime on paper, it's very different than being able to picture the area in your head and know ok, this is the neighborhood," said Lopez. "I'm looking at it from a different perspective, as somebody who has tried cases and knows exactly who goes into putting a case together for trial. It's a little different than an officer doing their job on the street."

Officer Cato says he likes the new program. It helps him too.

"Hey what about this? Can we go with this? Will this help out any? Should we get a video statement or just a written statement?" asked Cato.

Lopez says the program lets prosecutors see all the angles to the crime.

"Officers, who are on the streets everyday, they know who some of these people are, they know where some of the problem areas are, and there may be somebody who is doing a lot of different things, they can never catch them. When they do, they can have somebody to call in the DA's office and say, ‘alright we arrested this person last night for this particular offense but this is what else they're doing in the community.'"

Lopez is one of 14 assistant district attorneys going out on ride outs with police, hoping to learn how to better serve the public which helps them do a more thorough job.

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