Deterrence for criminals is low and communication between law enforcement agencies isn’t any better, attorney Mike Loomis says.
And those are just a few of the factors that led to Allen County’s record-tying number of homicides in 2013, he said at his law office Tuesday morning.
Loomis announced he’s running for Allen County prosecutor in an attempt to stamp out the homicide problem here.
I can no longer stand by while my community is under siege, he said during a news conference.
Loomis is a Fort Wayne native who was chief deputy prosecutor from 1997 and to 2001.
A Republican, he initially joined the prosecutor’s office in 1993. Loomis also was a deputy prosecutor in Marion County in the 1980s.
His likely opponent in the May Republican primary will be current Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards, who has made it known she is seeking re-election and is planning to make a formal announcement next week.
Loomis and Richards faced each other in the 2002 GOP primary race for prosecutor. She won the primary and went on to be elected that year to her first term as prosecutor.
We’re very proud of the record we’ve had in the 11-plus years since Karen was elected, said Richards’ chief deputy prosecutor, Michael McAlexander.
Loomis said he did not want to talk specifically about Richards’ administration during his news conference, but he did go into some detail about the different methods he’d use in the legal system that are not frequently employed at the local level.
Chief among those is the implementation of a year-round grand jury.
Doing this, Loomis said, would require witnesses to testify in cases and is a practice routinely used in federal court.
When asked during his news conference whether he’s factored in the costs it would take to seat a year-round grand jury, Loomis said that the strengthening of the deterrent value would be the payoff.
I think we’ll save more in the end, he said.
Loomis also said it would take away the choice of witnesses coming forward. If summoned by a grand jury, they’d have appear or face consequences.
No longer could they keep quiet or decide not to go to the authorities if they witnessed a homicide.
Yet, Loomis said he understands their fear to speak up in homicide cases.
I think it’s naïve to believe citizens want to come forward in a homicide case, Loomis said.
McAlexander took issue with the idea of a grand jury, noting that there are a lot of good parts of a grand jury, some not so good.
He added that the idea that someone would have to testify to a grand jury is not at all the case. The public needs to understand, you can’t force someone to testify against their will that way, McAlexander said.
Grand juries can be an effective tool to sort out public policy issues, according to McAlexander, but a good, skilled trial lawyer is what Richards’ administration has found works best for tough criminal cases.
They were used back in the ’90s with mixed results, he said of grand juries. There’s an old saying: A good prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.’
Loomis also stressed a desire to beef up the prosecutor’s investigation division as well as improving communication among various law enforcement agencies.
An annual homicide conference would bring all departments involved in such cases – police, coroners, prosecutors, others – together to discuss trends in killings.
I just don’t think communication is where it needs to be, he said.
McAlexander said Richards’ office has good relationships with the current police forces, as well as newly appointed Fort Wayne Police Chief Garry Hamilton, Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries and Fries’ possible successor, Chief Deputy David Gladieux.
Loomis also called for the community itself to be more proactive in tackling the homicide problem.
In his plans, there would be efforts to reach out to youths through peer courts in high schools, all-night basketball and other weekend activities, including youth clubs for entertainment and mentoring.
All of this to keep young boys and girls from joining gangs.
I don’t think we as a community are as proactive as we need to be, Loomis said.