Promises Made & Kept

When I ran for State's Attorney in 2006, I promised that I would use my years in office to combat criminal gangs, Internet predators, domestic violence, and truancy. That is exactly what I have done!

Gangs

I promised that tackling gangs would be my top priority as State's Attorney and I have renewed my efforts in 2017. Immediately upon taking Office I launched the Anti-Gang Initiative. In the summer of 2007, I created the first full-time Gang Prosecution Unit in Maryland. Under the Anti-Gang Initiative, all crimes committed by known gang members are prosecuted by the Gang Prosecution Unit. Since its inception, the Gang Prosecution Unit has prosecuted over 2,500 gang members for criminal offenses committed in Montgomery County. Gang prosecutors prosecute cases in the Circuit, District, and Juvenile courts.

In addition to prosecuting gang members who commit criminal offenses, the State's Attorney's Office also reaches out to the community to help educate young people and parents about the warning signs and dangers of gang activity. As part of my progressive approach to addressing the gang issue in our community, the State's Attorney's Office has participated in and helped organize events aimed to provide young people with safe and fun alternative to gang involvement.

In 2017, I petitioned the county for additional resources to add to the effectiveness of the Anti-Gang Initiative. In response to the recent increase in gang violence, I formed the Gang Work Group in April, 2017, to develop recommendations to reduce the violence. The Gang Work Group focuses on the strategic use of a new Maryland law, effective October 1, 2017, Article 9-804, Participation in criminal gangs prohibited. The Gang Work Group utilizes the new law in its effort to remove gang leadership.

Domestic Violence

I promised that we would continue the fight against domestic violence in our community. In 2009, the State's Attorney's Office joined with a number of private and public partners to open the Montgomery County Family Justice Center (FJC). The FJC is a joint partnership of the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office, the Sheriff's Office, the Montgomery County Police, the Department of Health and Human Services, the House of Ruth, Catholic Charities, the Interfaith Community Against Domestic Violence, and others.

The FJC is a one-stop destination for victims of domestic violence. Victims can go to the FJC to obtain peace orders, answer immigration questions, get counseling services, and get emergency services as needed. Specially trained Domestic Violence prosecutors then work with police and victims to hold abusers responsible for their crimes and break the cycle of abuse. In 2010, Montgomery County celebrated a full year without a domestic violence homicide. We are saving lives!

Internet Safety

I promised that I would use the power of my office to protect children from Internet predators. Since taking office, I have forged an unprecedented partnership with the Montgomery County Public Schools and the Montgomery County Police Department to teach young people how to avoid being victims of Internet predators. I and members of my office have gone to dozens of public and private schools, presenting age appropriate programs to young people on how to avoid dangerous activities online, such as posting personal information. I have also spoken at PTA meetings and Parent Academies, trying to provide parents with the tools they need to keep their children safe. Additionally, I worked with the Public Schools and the Police to add Internet safety to the school curriculum for the first time. This collaborative effort ensures that students receive the information they need to avoid those who would use technology to prey upon them.

Finally, I assigned a specially trained prosecutor to prosecute Internet predators. By educating parents and students, and prosecuting predators, I have worked to ensure that our children are safe from criminals who would use technology to target our most vulnerable citizens.

Truancy

I promised that I would work to reduce truancy in schools. We are fortunate to have some of the best schools in the country right here in Montgomery County, and it is imperative that we ensure that students benefit from the world-class education our schools provide. The data clearly shows that students who are habitually truant from school are at a higher risk of engaging in dangerous and/or illegal activities. The State's Attorney's Office works with the Montgomery County Public Schools and other county organizations as part of the Truancy Review Board. The Truancy Review Board meets regarding instances where students are habitually truant, and works with parents and students to make sure that students attend school. The goal of these efforts is not to put people in jail, but to ensure that students attend school. If students still do not attend school even after these efforts, the State's Attorney's Office can file charges against the student's guardian.

Additionally, the State's Attorney's Office has developed Truancy Court in conjunction with Montgomery County Public Schools. Truancy Court is a program that is held in selected middle schools in Montgomery County. The program initially involved only two schools, but has since expanded to include over twenty. I initially discovered that federal funding was available to set up the program through the University of Baltimore Law School, and personally worked with administrators there and in the Public Schools to ensure that Montgomery County received funding to establish a pilot program at schools that are particularly impacted by truancy.

Since the initial establishment of Truancy Court nine years ago, the program has continued to expand and now serves hundreds of at-risk children who have, as a result of their participation in the program, seen marked improvement in both their attendance and academic achievement.

Promises made...promises kept.