Campaign Issues

I. Strong Leadership

My personal mission, for my family and the citizens of Wicomico County, is to make Wicomico County one of the safest communities in the State of Maryland. In order to accomplish this mission it will be critical that we develop a tactical plan that focuses our office’s resources on those objectives that will protect our citizens the most.

My office will adopt the following to ensure the proper focus of our resources to maximize our effectiveness in the fight against crime in our community:

Felony Case Review - Setting Case Priorities and Objectives

Prosecutors will be assigned to review cases early on in the process to establish case priority and objectives. This proactive approach to prosecution is necessary so that our prosecutors, in partnership with law enforcement, can strategically target those offenders that pose the greatest threat to our citizens' safety, security, and quality of life. Again, the conviction and incarceration of thugs with guns, drug dealers, and sexual and violent offenders must be priority number one. Moreover, early felony review and case review will ensure that our prosecutors are thoroughly prepared and that their time (and the law enforcement officer's time) is being utilized in only the most efficient manner possible. We must not waste the valuable time of the prosecutors and law enforcement officers who are responsible for keeping the most violent and dangerous offenders off of our streets. My plan for early case review is crucial to our goal of making Wicomico County one of the safest counties in the Sate of Maryland.

Communication and Collaboration with Law Enforcement

Establishing professional relationships with all law enforcement agencies is vital to making a difference in the fight against crime. There will be a new valuation of the law enforcement officer’s time and contribution to our office's goals and objectives. I will encourage my prosecutors to communicate with law enforcement early and often to establish prosecutorial goals for our cases that take into consideration law enforcement's opinions and values. We must acknowledge that when law enforcement personnel are in court, they are off their beat away from their families or missing their rest from a hard night on patrol. We must utilize their time and contribution in the most efficient manner possible. I will have an open door policy at all times for the law enforcement community to walk in and voice their concerns and opinions. I want our office to be the best it can be and I look forward to feedback from our hard working law enforcement community on how we can improve our operations.

Communication with the Community (Community Prosecutor Corps)

Citizens know the affect that crime has on their particular community. I pledge that my prosecutors and I will come to individual communities and meet with you to hear your concerns and ideas about our prosecutorial goals and objectives. In some cases, I will have prosecutors embedded in the community working seamlessly with law enforcement, just as they do in other counties, to fight crime directly at the source.

Relationships with Defense Counsel

It is crucial that our office fosters relationships with other attorneys based upon trust. Defense counsel in Wicomico County know me as a hard-charging litigator with integrity. I know that for the wheels of justice to move smoothly, our prosecutors’ word must be their bond. I will have an open file policy and will take my role as administrator of justice as seriously as I take my role as advocate. I will ensure that my office is responsive to your calls and concerns because trust, communication, and professional relationships with all court actors are going to further our office's priorities and goals.

II. Initiatives

"Thugs with Guns, Drug Dealers, Repeat Violent Offenders, and Sex Offenders will be priority Number One."

Drugs, Drug Dealers and Gangs

The insidious nature and sale of drugs is a root cause of other crime in our community. I intend to focus the efforts of our office, law enforcement, and the community in a fight against drugs and the drug trade in our community. It will be a three-prong approach involving 1) Suppression, 2) Intervention, and 3) Prevention. I intend to propose to law enforcement and our community an initiative that is achieving great success in other communities plagued by drugs violent crime: The High Point Initiative. My version of the initiative is called "Choices."

Suppression: Incarceration of Repeat and Violent Offenders

My initiatives will include a traditional suppression component. With great collaboration with law enforcement and citizens in high crime areas, we will choose locations where drugs and drug dealing have held the community hostage long enough. We will develop cases against all drug dealers and drug houses in a particular geographic zone. In addition, we will ensure that the best possible cases have been developed and dealers known to be repeat or violent offenders will be arrested and prosecuted vigorously. Further, we will also seek enhanced incarceration using the subsequent offender statutes which will not be taken off of the table for the purposes of plea negotiation. Finally, we will litigate these cases and ensure that these dealers receive the maximum penalties prescribed by law.

Intervention: Choices and Consequences

Once a young man has criminal record for a drug crime, his ability to integrate into the community to become a productive member of society is significantly diminished; the rate of recidivism is high. It would be politically expedient to just say I am going to lock away every offender we catch in our targeted enforcement of drug dealers, but I am convinced that the approach can be counterproductive when it comes to some young first offenders. So my plan, like the Highpoint Initiative, contains a common sense intervention component with teeth. If our net catches a non-violent, young, first-time offender with no prior criminal history and no history of violence, the offender may be eligible for a pilot program called "Choices," wherein the offender's case is "banked" or temporarily suspended provided that they participate in a "call-in," a meeting with my prosecutors, law enforcement, and the community. At the call-in they will come to understand how their actions affect the people who live in their community. Essentially they will be given a choice: "take advantage of our arranged job services, drug screening, treatment, and social services, never use or deal drugs again, or face hard time for your crimes like your cohorts." If the selected participants choose to continue to participate in illicit activity, we will activate their "banked" case and we will seek the maximum sentence. This program puts a young, first offender on notice that the next time they participate in illicit activity there will be severe consequences for that choice. There will be no negotiation, the warrant will be signed and they will go to jail. It also proves to the targeted community that law enforcement and the Office of the State's Attorney do not desire to fill the prisons with young men or ruin their opportunity to have a life wherein they are gainfully employed and otherwise productive members of society. The choice is theirs, and if the young offender wants to make the wrong "choice" in life, hard time for their crime awaits.


The last but probably the most important part of the strategy is prevention. We must saturate our youth with the message that their view of the world will be obscured by bars if they consider drugs, drug dealing, and gangs as a lifestyle choice. I intend to work with our law enforcement agencies and influential members of our community to make sure our youth get the message that they make some of the most important choices in their youth: the choice to stay on the right path, or jump onto the wrong path. It is our obligation to ensure that they understand where the wrong choice in life will take them. The message must be loud, clear, and repetitive. Our County's drug problem is like a sink with the water running; it has been running so long it is now overflowing onto the floor. The traditional role of the prosecutor to is prosecute cases after the crime has occurred, essentially mopping up the mess. With Choices, however, I intend to shut the water off while we are mopping. This plan has been replicated in 25 other U.S. cities and can work in our community. In some of those communities, they are seeing a sustained 40 to 50 percent reduction in violent and drug related crime with no signs of crime displacement. At a minimum we will be getting drug dealers off our streets and building relationships between communities and with Law Enforcement.

III. Sex offenders

Sex offenders will be prosecuted to the fullest extent that the law provides. Their offenses are stealing the innocence of our children and of our community. I intend to proactively work with law enforcement to get into the schools at much as possible to bring children an appropriate message with the aim of keeping them safe from offenders. We must do all we can to protect children before they become a case that is being prosecuted by my office. In addition, I intend to work with law enforcement, educators, and other activists and agencies to have the greatest impact on protecting the most vulnerable members of our community.

IV. Plea Bargains

My general approach will be "charge bargaining" and not "plea bargaining." A crucial element of my approach will be the early review of cases by prosecutors with the input of law enforcement so individual case objectives are known prior to striking any bargain with Defense Counsel. Communication with law enforcement is crucial so that we obtain their input on the gravity of the offense(s) committed. In cases where I have prosecutors embedded in the community, they will have the enhanced perspective about what issues are important to the community and how a case should be handled. For example, they will know if lower level crimes (vandalism, graffiti, littering) are having a cumulative effect on the overall crime picture and will determine if they should be prosecuted more vigorously in any particular case.

With the preference for charge bargaining, my prosecutors will be instructed to accept a plea to the most serious charge that they know they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt if they took this matter to trial. I have a preference for utilizing plea bargaining (where we actually recommend a sentence) for those cases where we need witness cooperation.

Realistically, deviations from this policy will happen. Sometimes, based upon a prosecutor's analysis of the facts and their knowledge of the law, it is better for the community that we accept a plea rather than walk away without any conviction. Again, the key to success will be setting goals and objectives for the case early on in the process.

V. Nuisance Abatement

I subscribe to the "Broken Windows" theory that holds that even small signs of neighborhood disorder can create an environment that fuels law breaking. By addressing minor offenses such as vandalism, housing code violations, littering, and graffiti we can prevent more serious crimes down the road. I will actively use all tools to prosecute those crimes that are fueling additional law breaking. All communities have the right to the quiet enjoyment of their homes, parks, and yards.

In addition, I will assist wherever possible in directing other agencies (i.e. housing, building inspectors, code enforcement, planning and zoning, parole and probation, parks and recreation, animal control) to address problems that I see are contributing to the crime problem. If houses are used to distribute and sell narcotics, I intend to see to it that lessees are charged with a nuisance crime. I also intend to send letters to the landlords putting them on notice of our problem with the tenants. I expect landlord cooperation and collaboration in the fight against crime in our community as they have a responsibility to maintain their properties to achieve a reasonable standard of living for tenants and neighbors. It is my hope that they will work with our office when necessary to evict problem tenants and that they will implement strict tenant screening requirements.

-- By the Authority of Steven G. Woodward, Sr., Treasurer