By Terri Wyatt
As a 27-year career prosecutor I have seen all manner and all levels of crime. All crimes are disturbing and threaten a free society. But there are two categories of crime where I think we have fallen way short in San Diego County—juvenile crime and elder abuse. The Alpha and Omega of criminals and victims.
The San Diego County District Attorney’s office spends too much time and resources on trying to rehabilitate habitual adult criminals. Deputy District Attorneys are prosecutors—not social workers. There are many other organizations and agencies that are better trained and equipped to deal with lifelong repeat offenders.
However, we can work with juvenile offenders to help them get turned around before they become repeat offenders, before they become hard-core adult offenders and end up in and out of jail for the rest of their lives, or in some cases in prison for the rest of their lives. We must stop the “cradle to prison” cycle that many youth get caught in. Young people are susceptible to the influence of peers, gangs and other criminal enterprises as a quick way to make money or to find a place to fit-in.
I believe that intervening early not only saves young lives from being wasted, but also helps prevent the onset of adult criminal careers and reduces the likelihood of juveniles becoming serious and violent offenders. This in turn reduces the burden of crime on society, increases community safety and will save San Diego taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.
With an integrated approach, community leaders, law enforcement agencies and the District Attorney’s office need to partner up with involved business organizations, non-profit organizations, PTA groups and drug enforcement groups such as the Meth Strike Force. Together we can teach our kids job skills and get them off drugs so that they have options to lead productive lives to grow into healthy adulthood.
At the other end of the spectrum is our growing population of senior citizens. Seniors are vulnerable to many types of crime from physical abuse, abandonment, isolation, financial, neglect and mental suffering.
For over the past decade, the San Diego County District Attorney’s office has only ONE — that’s right, ONE — investigator assigned to follow-up on elder abuse cases in our entire county. Last year 14 seniors died in care centers in our county alone, all believed to have been from abuse and neglect. This lack of oversight and level of abuse is unacceptable. As a community we should be outraged that so little attention has been given to those least able to protect themselves.
If elected as District Attorney, I will create a county-wide Elder Abuse Task Force to give our seniors the protection they have earned and deserve from their prosecution and law enforcement agencies. With pinpoint resources allocated from county-wide agencies to a task force, our growing senior population can and will be better protected against criminals who prey upon our most vulnerable.
Please visit my website at www.TerriWyattForDA.com for more details of my candidacy for District Attorney, with details of my background, endorsements and goals. I’m requesting that the voters of this county elect a prosecutor, not a politician.
Terri Wyatt is a career prosecutor with 26 years of experience in the San Diego District Attorney’s office. She is a graduate of the University of San Diego School of Law.