I wanted to update you on some of our achievements within the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office to better serve the people of Lake County.
The independent Case Review Panel and Citizen’s Advisory Board are up and running and have been extremely effective in addressing the issue of wrongful convictions and rebuilding trust. The reputation of the office has improved dramatically on both a local and national level. The new specialized units that give greater focus on particular types of crime have been implemented seamlessly. The Civil Division continues to represent the county and its elected officials effectively and successfully stood up to Springfield in its attempt to impose unconstitutional legislation upon us. Each division continues to work hard and ensure justice for all citizens.
Our commitment to being more open and involved with the community has had a direct, positive impact on the improved relationship that the State’s Attorney’s Office has with the community as a whole. We have made tough decisions resulting in direct savings to Lake County taxpayers while increasing our ability to fulfill our mission. I am also proud to report that last year we came in under budget.
Since taking office, here is just a partial list of our accomplishments:
- Restructured the State’s Attorney’s Office, increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the office by taking advantage of office resources and individual talents.
- Eliminated non-essential positions.
- Created new specialized units to provide greater focus on particular types of crime.
- Developed a Specialized Victims & Investigations Division to ensure that victims get the attention they need throughout the judicial process, especially victims of sexual assault.
- Created a Gang Prosecution Unit to address this growing problem and enable a bigger-picture view.
- Expanded the Cyber/White Collar Division to combat the increase in financial identity theft, fraud and child pornography.
- Streamlined the felony review process.
- Forged new alliances with Federal law enforcement.
- Emphasized training and created a new Training Division to deliver in-house training, coordinate training of new attorneys, and institute a formalized mentoring program.
- Appointed an independent Case Review Panel of volunteer legal professionals to focus on the issue of preventing wrongful convictions and to develop new protocols for the prosecution of cases going forward.
- Called on local agencies to develop a comprehensive opioid prevention strategy for Lake County and co-founded the Lake County Opioid Initiative, which is a collaborative countywide, multi-agency effort to prevent opioid abuse, addiction, overdose and death. We are continuing to help facilitate a pilot program in Lake County that will equip law enforcement first-responders with Naloxone–the life-saving drug that can be administered to a person experiencing an overdose. This program will put Lake County at the forefront of addressing this epidemic on a national level.
- Held a series of community forums designed to help educate the public on issues ranging from street gangs and drugs, to Illinois’s new conceal carry legislation.
- Formed a Citizens Advisory Board to help engage the community on key issues and improve trust.
- Hired the office’s first communication manager to improve communication and transparency.
- Launched social media.
- Improved media relations and held a media open house.
- Improved our commitment to victims and their families. We were instrumental in facilitating a program to ensure every police officer in Lake County has a victim’s rights form that can be given to victims of crime immediately upon contact with law enforcement. This form provides victims with important information about their rights and the services available to them. We also developed and facilitated a support group for victims and their families and continue to solicit feedback in our continuous improvement efforts.
- Developed a volunteer program consisting of experienced and trained professionals who provide administrative and other office support. The program is designed to improve our service levels to the public by supplementing our limited resources with no additional cost to taxpayers.
- Worked with the Illinois Legislature to promote legislation that positively impacts the law enforcement mission, including strong support for early childhood education, which has been shown to have a direct impact on reducing crime and improving our community.
- Increased our commitment to the Lake County Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC), which is dedicated to serving children who are victims of physical and sexual abuse. This year I worked with the Lake County Board to obtain an additional investigator at our CAC to help meet the ever-increasing caseload.
Earlier this summer, I was honored to be named the 2014 State’s Attorney of the Year by the Illinois State Crime Commission. In addition, I was awarded the 2014 Frederic Milton Thrasher Award from the National Gang Crime Research Center for outstanding leadership in prosecution and the 2014 Moxie Award from the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA) for supporting victims of sexual assault through the criminal justice system. This recognition also speaks to the exceptional team of prosecutors, investigators, counselors and staff members at the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office who go to work every day dedicated to seeking justice.
Last week, I was proud to receive the Community Leadership Award from the 2014 Overdose Awareness Day Planning Committee for working to end overdose in Lake County and going above and beyond to make change happen in our community.
In the coming year, we plan to implement an Alternative Prosecution Program for first-time non-violent offenders that better benefits the community as a whole. In addition, we are working with law enforcement leaders to help facilitate the creation of a Lake County Gang Unit to curtail the increasing threat of street gangs, deadly drugs and violent crime in our community.
Thank you for your continued support. It’s truly an honor to serve you. Let’s keep working together to make the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office a model for integrity, fairness and justice for all citizens.