Rod Meloni: Worthy's cry for help

Wayne County prosecutor makes plea for better funding

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®

DETROIT - Ask any Detroiter their number one concern and without hesitation they will tell you it's crime.

Wayne County residents are learning quickly that Detroit's crime problem is spreading and people are living in fear. Today Prosecutor Kym Worthy pointed to the "inflammatory" shooting of Renisha McBride. The homeowner who shot her in the face with a shotgun while she knocked on his door on his porch in the early morning hours over the weekend clearly feared the area's rampant crime coming to his door.

Story: Prosecutors begin review process after Detroit-area man kills woman on his porch

Worthy says it is vital to find out what happened in that incident and has a team from her office working that case. The only problem is she had to take people, precious resources in the prosecutor's office, from other cases to do what needs to be done with the newest Wayne County shooting garnering national headlines. [Worthy did not hesitate to point out that since October 1 in Detroit 40 people have been killed in gun violence].

In doing so, Worthy says, she is putting other cases such as murders, shootings and rapes on the shelf with no work on them getting accomplished because her manpower is so depleted. She says she has lost as much as a third of her staff because of the case load, the substandard pay, the pending pay cuts, the layoffs, the long hours and the lure of $20,000 a year raises in much smaller jurisdictions with far less crime like Macomb and Oakland Counties. She complains her office is becoming the training ground for prosecutors statewide.

Read more: Wayne County prosecutor: 'We're treated like crap'

Now Worthy has been known to say such things in the past but today she requested an audience with the Wayne County Commission public safety committee because she feels the need to explain just what is truly going on. Yes, she is still suing the county over her insufficient funding levels. She claims she needs $12 million more dollars a year than Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano and the County Commission are willing to give her. That suit is still pending which Worthy told Local 4 after the meeting has her not commenting beyond what she said in the public hearing. But, by only having a $30 million budget she says she is being forced to fight one of the worst crime problems in the nation with both arms tied behind her back. She invited the committee to visit personally with her and her staff at her office to get a true feel for just how bad working conditions are there.

Worthy stressed, "I have no time for puffery," meaning this is not an attempt to scare people into giving her office more money. She said she is sounding the alarm because it needs to be. And no, she says, this is not about making her life easier or making it so she doesn't spend a lot of time hiring fresh-out-of-law-school lawyers. She says this problem is everyone's problem, affecting southeast Michigan.

When there are dozens of outstanding child sex abuse, child abuse and homicide warrants because there are not enough investigators to go catch the bad guys it leaves us all living with the criminals who belong behind bars living among us. She says when prosecuting attorneys are handed case files to try cases before a jury they've ever even read, and when they do often times witnesses are not rounded up for the case because there aren't enough staffers around to take care of that, all of a sudden the case is lost and the criminals walk away emboldened. Once again, public safety is imperiled. Worthy wants to know if Southeast Michigan really wants to live this way.

Worthy then spoke of the ignominy of going to a national prosecutor's conference only to find out Wayne County [and Detroit by extension] is the poster child for how not to prosecute crime. She said her office is commonly referred to as a laughingstock. She said clearly the region is perfectly comfortable with this situation because she has been fighting this fight for the past decade and had to go to court with her own employer because it's gotten so bad she is not certain what else to do.

If there ever was a pebble in the pond kind of problem that no one wants to see, this is it. But the larger problem and the real cause behind it is that Wayne County itself is disastrously in debt, burning cash much like Detroit did prior to its bankruptcy, an emergency manager is now mentioned often around the Guardian Building where the county keeps its offices. Sympathetic county commissioners say they want to help; it's just that there is NO money. Worthy is out literally fund raising for her office, asking private business benefactors to help her test DPD crime lab rape kits. The initial tests funded by the state of Michigan have already revealed staggering and downright frightening results with only a small fraction of them tested. Rapists who also kill are on the loose for the lack of the proper systems to go and round them up and put them away for life.

There is no doubt Kym Worthy's office needs more money, our streets need more cops the county needs jail cells to put them in. Oh and then there is that $300 million hole in the ground that's another story we've spend months and months covering. Where the essential help that's needed comes from is anyone's guess; but the number one quality of life issue for Southeast Michigan just moved a little higher on the list than it already was. Unquestionably it is time to start a serious search for an alternative solution. We are all on the clock on this one.

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