Wednesday, November 04, 2009

John McCarthy at the BCC Breakfast Club, Part One

By Marc Korman.

On November 2nd, John McCarthy visited the Bethesda Chevy-Chase Breakfast Club. He announced, though not for the first time, that he was seeking reelection and discussed three of the key issues he has worked on over his three years as State’s Attorney: domestic violence, senior fraud, and Internet safety. He also discussed a few other issues facing his office.

The visit was McCarthy’s third to the BCC Breakfast Club. The first came during his campaign, where he jointly appeared with the other Democratic primary candidate, Dan Fox. That visit and some of the comments made during it were part of a defamation suit Fox filed against McCarthy. The suit was dropped and Fox paid McCarthy’s legal fees. McCarthy also visited the Club in 2008 to describe some of his office’s work.

Domestic Violence

According to the State’s Attorney, Maryland had 72 domestic violence homicides in 2008, with 5 of them occurring in Montgomery County. That was a bit lower than previous years, as in some years domestic violence homicides make up half the total homicides in the County. In 2008 there were 21 total homicides throughout the County.

In 2010, McCarthy will head the Maryland State’s Attorneys. That means he will be the point person on legislation in Annapolis affecting the State’s Attorneys, primarily criminal laws. But he was also active during the last legislative session and touted the state’s passage of a law allowing judges to remove guns from those who have temporary domestic violence protective orders against them and requiring their removal for final protective orders.

The County has also opened the Family Justice Center in Rockville. The center houses 40 different organizations and agencies, both government and private, who can provide services for victims of domestic violence ranging from food, career counseling, and legal services. After a similar center was established in San Diego, their domestic violence homicides dropped from 32 to 4. All of those should not be attributed to the center, but providing victim services likely does help the abused escape terrible circumstances and avoid repeat incidents.

Senior Fraud

Elder abuse crimes are on the rise. While the term usually refers to physical abuse or neglect, there is also a good deal of exploitation against seniors through financial crimes. McCarthy usually emphasizes crime prevention, but in this case he has a particular concern with crime reporting. Only 4% of crimes committed against seniors are reported by those seniors, though McCarthy did not elaborate as to whether that was due to embarrassment or lack of awareness that a crime had occurred. McCarthy has been touring the County and speaking to seniors groups as part of a Senior Exploitation awareness program to try to improve that statistic.

Crimes that are reported are prosecuted using evidence based prosecution. Due to the specific nature of the victim, who may be elderly and in some cases infirm, the prosecutors put more of an emphasis on other evidence besides the victim’s statement.

In Part Two, we will see what else the State’s Attorney had to say.