Thursday, November 05, 2009

John McCarthy at the BCC Breakfast Club, Part Two

By Marc Korman.

Last time we reviewed two of the priorities State’s Attorney John McCarthy discussed at a recent visit to the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Breakfast Club. Today, we will look at what the State’s Attorney had to say about his third priority, Internet Safety, and other issues.

Internet Safety

McCarthy expressed concern about two issues involving what he called Internet safety, both affecting school children: sexting and cyber-bullying.

Sexting is the practice of sending explicit pictures electronically, typically by cell phone. The problem becomes acute if the recipient shares the pictures broadly. As with senior awareness, McCarthy has visited schools and tried to emphasize to students that anything they send electronically could end up exposed to the public. Cyber-bullying involves a young person being impersonated online or being harassed online through negative comments and messages.

As with his senior outreach, McCarthy is working with Superintendent Weast and Police Chief Manger on outreach to public schools.

Other Issues

McCarthy touched on a few other issues important to his office.

On gangs, McCarthy said there are 40 gangs in the County with 1600 to 1800 members. However, the three biggest are the Bloods, the Cryps, and MS-13. Although the amount of gang members incarcerated is going up, McCarthy estimated that only 5% of the crimes committed in the County were actually gang related. He also emphasized that gangs and undocumented immigrants are not synonymous.

McCarthy also talked about the need for more engagement with students. 56% of juvenile crimes occur between 2pm and 6pm. The State’s Attorney believes that decreasing the rate of truancy could reduce juvenile crime. Of course, 2pm is usually the end of the school day so there is a need for more after school engagement as well. One idea McCarthy advanced was sending attendance records to juvenile parole and probation officers on a daily basis so they can see how their charges are doing.

In 2006, the major issue McCarthy’s competitor raised was the poor state of IT in the State’s Attorney’s office. McCarthy acknowledged that IT advances have been slow due to the goal of an interoperable system where the prosecutors, law enforcement, social workers, and others could all access the same case management system. However, McCarthy said the new, integrated system would be online within 30 days to monitor and manage the State’s Attorney’s 30,000 annual cases.

But all is not rosy administratively. The State’s Attorney’s budget, provided by the County, has been cut by 9% over two years. One way McCarthy has tried to mitigate this is an increased emphasis on seeking grants. His grantwriter is Seth Zucker, McCarthy’s spokesperson, one of the architects of his 2006 campaign, and brother of D14 Democrat Craig Zucker. Despite the cuts, the office still has a $12.5 million budget and 125 full time employees.