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August 3rd, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Andrew Warren Releases “Families First” Initiative in State Attorney Race

Tampa, FL — Following his call to disarm domestic abusers and protect victims, Andrew Warren has released a “Families First” initiative to target crimes that put children and families most at risk in Hillsborough County.

“After speaking with neighborhood leaders, voters, and the legal community, it’s clear that we’re prioritizing the wrong kind of prosecution” Warren said. “When I’m State Attorney, we’ll change the way we go after domestic violence, increase resources for violent crime, sexual assault, and rape prosecution, and pay specific attention to crimes affecting children and families who are left vulnerable.”

Statistics from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement paint a grim picture for Hillsborough under the leadership of incumbent Mark Ober.  From 2014 to 2015, homicide and rape both rose 23%, armed robbery rose 10%, and aggravated assault was up 5%.  Notably, domestic violence was up 4% despite a statewide decline and domestic violence murders nearly doubled during that time.

“There are policies in place right now that make it harder to fight crime effectively,” Warren said.

Local attorneys have complained about an Ober practice that requires victims of domestic abuse to take the initiative and follow up on their own case in order for the State Attorney’s office to be willing to pursue charges. If the victim doesn’t pursue the case because of intimidation, the case is dropped.

“It’s well known that domestic abusers threaten their victims to keep them from pursuing charges.  When the State Attorney isn’t being proactive, he’s feeding right into the strategy we know abusers use,” Warren added.

A tragic example related to the increase in domestic violence is the murder of Phoebe Jonchuck, a five year old who was thrown off of the Skyway Bridge by her father while in his custody despite his numerous domestic violence arrests. Many of those charges were dropped despite frequent and mounting evidence because of the current practice.

“That practice will change when I’m elected. Putting victims in a no-win situation like that is completely counter to the job of the State Attorney,” Warren said. “It’s not just bad policies, we also need full time leadership in the office to make sure cases don’t fall through the cracks.”

Confusion and lack of leadership in the State Attorney’s office led to the case of a child human trafficking victim slipping through the cracks.  Both the victim’s family and law enforcement officials pushed for charges to be filed, but Mark Ober brought no charges.

It wasn’t until media scrutiny from WTSP centered on Ober’s office that he was shamed into pressing charges.  His inaction allowed the rapist to remain free and put other children in danger for months.

“We need a full time State Attorney who will fight for our families, every day.  This isn’t just a ceremonial job,” Warren said. “Cases are falling through the cracks, victims are going without justice, and offenders stay on the streets where they continue to terrorize our neighborhoods.”

Last year, the Tampa Bay Times uncovered nearly 500 untested rape kits from Hillsborough County sitting on shelves, allowing rapists to continue preying on victims without any way for law enforcement to spot a pattern.  At the same time just across the bay, Pinellas County didn’t have a single untested kit.

“I’ll work with our agencies immediately to close this obscene backlog and ensure we don’t have these oversights any more.  This is about using our resources efficiently to target the crimes that have the largest impact on our neighborhoods. The facts are clear, we need a dedicated public servant who will put Hillsborough families first, ” Warren said. “Our families deserve nothing less.”

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