By Mark Lindquist
Pierce County Prosecutor
One of the joys of being a dad is reading to our daughter. She laughs at Dr. Seuss and is fascinated by the “Wild Things.” Like millions of other children, she also loves “The Three Little Pigs,” a fable about hard work and safety.
Mom sends the three siblings out into the world where there are dangers, as represented by the big bad wolf. The first two pigs build their houses quickly, one with straw, the other with sticks. They both become wolf lunch.
The third sibling, in contrast, works hard and builds his house with bricks. He stays safe. The lasting appeal of this fable speaks to everyone’s fundamental need for safety, which is the cornerstone of well-being for any community.
As your Prosecutor, my job is to keep our community safe. Keeping you safe is not my only duty as the people’s lawyer, but it is my main duty. Our office protects you in a variety of ways, some old-fashioned, some innovative. It’s all part of a brick-solid foundation.
I’ll be discussing our numerous public safety initiatives in this column. This is a preview of some of our efforts to protect you and your family, which I’ll cover in more detail in future columns.
PROTECTING VULNERABLE ADULTS
As our population ages, our vulnerable elders need greater protections. In 2011, I formed an Elder Abuse Unit. We have become leaders in both the prosecution and prevention of elder abuse. In 2016, our office was one of only nine counties in the country to win an award from the Department of Justice of nearly $400,000. These funds are being used to coordinate a comprehensive approach to protecting elders and other vulnerable adults.
HIGH PRIORITY OFFENDER PROGRAM (HPO)
HPO is a new data-driven program where we focus resources on the small percentage of criminals who cause a large percentage of crimes. In crime, as in life, it’s a small group of bad actors causing most of the problems. That’s not new, that’s common sense. What’s new is how we are using data and technology to identify these career criminals and high-impact offenders, tag them in the system, and remove them from our streets. This new program has already reduced crime and made us safer.
REDUCING GANG VIOLENCE
Gang violence in Pierce County is down more than 60% since we formed a specialized Gang Unit to vigorously prosecute violent street gangs. We successfully used conspiracy charges, gun charges, and other tools to hold violent gang members accountable. We also work with local government and non-profit partners to prevent gang violence by steering our youth away from street gangs.
HUMAN SEX TRAFFICKING
The average age for children coerced into the sex trade is 12-13. Many of them are runaways who were sexually abused as children. To protect these vulnerable victims, we vigorously prosecute their abusers. We also work with our partners to support victims and assist them in finding alternatives to the sex trade.
FIGHTING FOR FAIR SHARE
For decades, the Department of Corrections (DOC) used Pierce County as a dumping ground for offenders from other counties. With “fair share” legislation, we stopped the dumping. This year, DOC closed Rap-Lincoln, a work release facility that drew offenders here from around the state. Further, we reached an agreement with DOC that any replacement facility would not be in our county. We remain vigilant so our county is never again a dumping ground.
Many crimes are driven by drugs, mental health issues, or some combination. As an alternative to traditional prosecution, we have a progressive drug court, a veteran’s track in drug court, and a mental health court. By balancing accountability and compassion, we offer help to non-violent offenders willing to seek treatment.
Juveniles and adults are different and therefore we treat them differently. The primary goal of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitation. We hold juveniles accountable, and also provide them with support and guidance. We use innovative, evidence-based programs to help juveniles grow into productive members of our community. This is yet another example of smartly and effectively using our limited resources to keep our community safe. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
SERVING THE PUBLIC
I’m also proactive in other criminal justice system issues, including legislation to improve public safety and equal access to justice. Our justice system should be fair, free of bias, and serve all of our people well.
One of my goals as your prosecutor is to cultivate a culture of effective public service. Our office leaders expect high performance and high standards from our staff and will fight for what’s right.
Pierce County is booming. Population is up, crime is down. Our brick foundation is solid. As your Prosecutor, I am committed to keeping Pierce County safe and strong.
Mark Lindquist is our Pierce County Prosecutor. A career prosecutor with more than 20 years of service in the office, he was appointed in 2009, elected in 2010 and reelected in 2014.