Ask Anything: 10 questions with N.C. Secretary of Crime Control & Public Safety
Posted September 23, 2008
Updated September 30, 2008
We will have a new governor soon. What has not been accomplished in Crime Control & Public Safety that you hope the next secretary can make happen? – Joe Johnson, Raleigh
First, let me say I’m proud of all that we have been able to accomplish in the past eight years.
Our National Guard has been busier in recent years than they have at any time since World War II serving in the Global War on Terror, protecting our nation’s borders while still protecting our state, and responding to natural disasters.
The DMV Enforcement unit merged with the State Highway Patrol and the result has been record setting numbers in weight and motor carrier safety enforcement for the past three years. The processing time for claims by innocent crime victims has been reduced by two-thirds so victims are receiving the financial help they need much faster.
Our Alcohol Law Enforcement division became the first alcohol-related law enforcement agency in the world to become accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies and our Emergency Management Division will receive national accreditation by the end of the year.
But there is much more we can do. Hurricane Katrina was a wake-up call for many about the importance of emergency preparedness, yet many individuals still don’t heed the warnings. We can do more to educate people on the importance of preparing their families for emergencies.
We’ve completed installation of nearly half of the VIPER network, which serves as the backbone for the state’s interoperable emergency communications system. But we still need $85 million in funds to finish the job and ensure that all emergency responders can connect to a single communications system and talk with each other.
We also need more troopers. Our 1,800 troopers work diligently to keep our highways safe, but our resources have not kept pace with the increase in licensed drivers and vehicle miles driven. Additional troopers would help better protect our highways from reckless drivers.
If you have been in charge of Homeland Security in North Carolina since 2001, why has the illegal immigrant problem here increased? – Dan Carter, Raleigh
The challenge of illegal immigration is not unique to North Carolina; in fact it is an issue with which the entire country is wrestling.
The reason so many people flock to our country is because of the growth and opportunity we have here. The greatest threat to our nation’s security is from terrorists, not from people who are seeking a better future for their children. Together, we must find a balance between welcoming new citizens and ensuring the safety of our communities.
Enforcement of immigration laws has been – and continues to be – primarily a federal responsibility. Our state and local law enforcement agencies will continue to support and work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
I have noticed the public water resources in the state of North Carolina are unprotected from terrorist damaging the water supply system. What is the North Carolina Office of Homeland Security doing in protecting the water resources for the state? – Ralph Davis, Raleigh
While the U.S Department of Homeland Security provides guidance on various methods of protection and security, local water systems are controlled and protected by the local agency, which may be the city, county or a combination. Each locally controlled water system has developed emergency response and emergency management plans and coordinated those plans with the state. The state stands ready to assist the local water systems if there is a specific threat.
Would there not be significantly less taxpayer expense to merge Crime Control & Public Safety under the N.C. Department of Justice? Why two separate agencies with law enforcement responsibilities? – D.D. Mack, Garner
While both agencies do have law enforcement responsibilities, the agencies also have very different missions.
The Department of Crime Control and Public Safety is charged with reducing crime and protecting public safety by enforcing laws related to traffic, alcohol and tobacco consumption, lottery and bingo operations. A large component of the department – the National Guard, Emergency Management and the Civil Air Patrol – provides the core of the state’s emergency response system, which has been held up as a model for other states.
The Department of Justice provides legal representation and advice to all state agencies and commissions. Through the State Bureau of Investigation, the justice department assists local law enforcement with criminal investigations. Many other state agencies have law enforcement arms that relate to their specific duties. For instance, marine and wildlife officers in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources provide law enforcement support on our lakes and waterways.
If agencies were to merge with other departments, administrative costs would have to transfer to the other departments, so any cost savings would be minimal.
I read crime news in various media publications and I know several law enforcement officials talk about gangs. Do you think there is a realistic chance that violent crimes from gangs will be reduced? I no longer feel safe. – William Fisher, Raleigh
In recent months, we’ve heard a lot more from the media and public officials about gang activity and gang presence. Part of the reason for that is because people are much more aware of the issue and know what to look for.
Gangs are not a new challenge for our state. While the numbers of gangs and gang members have increased in recent years, so have our law enforcement efforts. We have developed and implemented a statewide database to identify and track gang members and their activity. GangNet is available to all law enforcement agencies.
Our department also has worked with local law enforcement agencies and other groups to educate citizens, law enforcement, school officials and community leaders about signs and symbols of gang activity. We all share in the responsibility to keep our communities safe and healthy.
No one should tolerate violent behavior. I encourage all citizens to be vigilant of their surroundings. Don’t hesitate to report to local law enforcement if you see something suspicious. Working together, we will reduce gang violence in our state.
Secretary Beatty, do you believe ex-trooper Charles Jones should get his job back with the Highway Patrol and why have there been no charges filed against him for beating his K-9 partner Ricoh? – Steve, Kinston
This case is currently before the State Personnel Commission and I have requested that they uphold the dismissal of Charles Jones. Dismissal from the patrol was the right action. We cannot tolerate the inhumane treatment of our canines. The incident was reported to the State Bureau of Investigation and they investigated and have provided their findings to the Wake County District Attorney. The district attorney will decide if charges are warranted.
Last week, driving down to North Carolina from Virginia, I noticed a Silver Alert asking to dial 511 for information. Why couldn't you put the information on the sign? It was poor weather and I didn't have an extra hand to dial the phone. There is enough room to put a description. You could reach more people willing to help! Thank you for your response. – Lou Ann Crowder, Glen Allen
Our department partners with several state agencies and the media to get the word out to the public about Silver Alerts. The Department of Transportation has guidelines and rules about the type and amount of information that can be posted on the electronic highway signs. They have determined that asking citizens to dial 511 for more information during Silver Alerts is the best way to disseminate the information to motorists.
Aren't random roadblocks like Click It or Ticket and license checkpoints a form of "fishing expedition," and forbidden under the state constitution, which says involuntary searches have to be based on "evidence of the act committed"? – Ray Ubinger, Durham
Both driver’s license and DWI checking stations repeatedly have been determined to be reasonable and constitutional by our state courts. As stated by the North Carolina Supreme Court in State v Foreman, 351 N.C. 627 (2000), “Our state's interest in combating intoxicated drivers outweighs the minimal intrusion that an investigatory stop may impose upon a motorist under these circumstances. . .”
Mr. Secretary, thank you for years of service to the Dept. My question is this: For what specific reason did the Motor Carrier Enforcement merge with the Highway Patrol? It seems other than the "Weight Man" now having the same vehicles and uniforms, their responsibilities remain unchanged. Was it just for the appearance of more troopers on the road? I, personally, think it should have remained unchanged. Thanks. – Lane Miller, Raleigh
Gov. Michael Easley ordered the merger and the General Assembly approved the recommendation in 2002. Both agencies had similar missions: to provide highway safety to the state.
The intent was to improve the overall operations of DMV-Enforcement and I believe it has resulted in more efficient operations. Since the merger, the Highway Patrol has weighed and removed more overweight trucks from North Carolina roadways than any other time in the history of highway safety.
So far this year, troopers have stopped overweight vehicles totaling 136,945,001 pounds, issued fines for overweight vehicles totaling $8,578,049 and conducted 57,258 inspections.
Due to the recent arrests/convictions of several law enforcement officers, what can be done to rebuild the credibility and respect the public has lost toward the law enforcement community? – Carmen Moody, Garner
While it is especially disturbing when someone sworn to uphold the law breaks it, I don’t believe the public has lost respect for the law enforcement community.
While there have been some well publicized exceptions, the vast majority of law enforcement officers uphold the high standards that the public rightly expects of them. To ensure that our State Troopers and ALE Agents maintain the public’s respect, we have a series of checks and balances.
First we have a careful selection and screening process of applicants. Both the initial training and our annual in-service training include ethics instruction. We take allegations of misconduct seriously and will take quick and decisive action against those who do not adhere to both agencies’ strict standards. We expect our law enforcement officers to serve with integrity and professionalism and we will hold them accountable.