08/25/08 — Republican AG candidate challenges Cooper's record

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Republican AG candidate challenges Cooper's record

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on August 25, 2008 1:38 PM

Two issues motivated Republican Asheboro attorney Bob Crumley to throw his name into the pot for the state's top law enforcement position earlier this year.

One is the poor handling of the state's crime lab, he said. The other, is the state's ever-increasing problems with illegal immigrants and gang activity.

And both, Crumley emphasizes, are issues that current North Carolina Attorney General and Democratic candidate for the office, Roy Cooper, could have done something about.

"Roy Cooper's been at this for eight years, but there's been a lack of leadership," he said.

In the crime lab, he said, the delays in getting back evidence -- often nearly a year for serious crimes -- are hurting not only law enforcement efforts, but also are contributing to the backlog in the state's court system. And, he added, there have been cases of criminals, out on bond while the crime lab processes evidence for trial, who have been arrested again for violent crimes. But then to make things worse, a new crime lab in Greensboro was opened this year, despite not having the capability to analyze DNA evidence.

"We need to get the politics out of it, and we need to find out why we're not being productive and fix that," he said.

The other problem, he said, has been the slow response to the gang problem, especially those involving illegal aliens -- often Hispanics in the eastern part of the state and Asians in the western.

"They're here and they're recruiting in our schools, kids who are 10 and 11 years old," he said. "Gangs are one of our major problems, and the attorney general should have long ago taken a stand and said they are not welcome here."

And despite the fact the Legislature did just recently approve tougher penalties for gang-related crimes, Crumley said he doesn't think they went far enough.

"We need to declare war on them. It's got to be a multi-faceted approach (intervention programs, even stiffer penalties, more teeth for investigative grand juries and more help from the federal government). How much simpler would it have been if he'd started this eight years ago? Now we're behind a huge eight-ball and this is too little, too late," Crumley said, adding that this latest piece of legislation is emblematic of Cooper's entire eight years in office.

"His administration has been a lot about show," he said.

Pointing to other issues like protecting children from child predators, he complimented Cooper for his work with other state attorneys general to force social networking sites like MySpace to improve their internal controls, but then took him to task for failing to go further and persuade the General Assembly to pass the original version of Jessica's Law, which institutes stricter penalties for sex offenders.

"He just won't get down and push hard for legislation like Jessica's Law, which should have been passed two or three years ago," he said.

That lack of action is especially egregious since Cooper -- a former legislator -- originally ran on his ability to work with the General Assembly.

"You can't have it both ways," Crumley said. "The attorney general should be an advocate for law enforcement in North Carolina. The attorney general should be willing to expend his political capital to get things done in the General Assembly. You need an attorney general who is more concerned about fixing the problems of this state than protecting their political position."

Even more importantly, he said, the state needs an attorney general who can effectively oversee the state Department of Justice -- something he suspects might have been part of the problems of the past eight years.

"I've got the background," Crumley said, citing his history as the former Randolph County county manager, its county attorney and as the chief executive officer of Crumley & Associates, which employs 135 people across 10 counties.

And, he added, Cooper, a veteran of the state Legislature and a five-man law firm, simply did not have that kind of managerial experience when he was elected to the attorney general post.

"Is it any wonder he would struggle in the role?" Crumley said. "The role of the attorney general is not a doer job. The role is a strategic one."

And by bringing that experience to the office, he believes he can help streamline its functions, making it more responsive, while also making it more efficient and cost-effective.

But first he has to win, and he is confident that he will.

"We're going all over this state. I've always believed in public service," he said. "I know we're doing what it takes to be successful. Republicans have been winning more and more down-ballot races (in recent years) and I think that will continue for us."