Tenth District Attorney General Steve Crump says the area has plenty of challenges to face, as he is in the start of his eight years in the post.
Although Crump was not scheduled to officially take office until September following his May Primary victory, and having faced no Democratic opposition in the August General, he actually began his duties a couple months early following the resignation of longtime DA Steve Bebb.
Crump addressed the Rotary Club of Cleveland on Tuesday, saying there have been very few days since starting the job when he has not had to answer a phone call late at night.
“My days don’t end,” Crump said. “I could count the days on one hand since July 1 that I have not received a call at night. I’ve been awakened a dozen times in the middle of the night since then — several of those have unfortunately been for homicide cases.”
He said his assistants usually go out to those cases, but one of his daughters experienced the receipt of one of those calls.
“We were watching television and the phone rang,” he said. “She is 17 and she kind of knows what Dad does, but that was an eye-opener to her.”
Crump said his family first realized something was different when the TBI called and said they needed to meet and develop a “safety plan.”
“In today’s world, we just had a D.A. and his wife who were murdered, so my family now has a safety plan which involves a safe house, involves a cordon to get people there, involves law enforcement response to threats on my life or my family’s life,” he said.
Crump said he hadn’t given much thought to that necessity when he began campaigning for the job, but as he got closer to taking office he prepared his family for what was to take place.
“The 14-year-old thinks it’s pretty cool TBI is kind of hanging around,” he said, injecting a light moment. “But, I told her we could work it out where the TBI could go with her to the movies or to parties. She did not find that to be nearly as humorous or exciting.”
He said the fight against methamphetamine has been engaged for a long time.
“Meth labs are down, but that’s because it’s cheaper to import it from Mexico,” Crump said. “We’re beginning to see much more potent varieties. It is from very dangerous cartels and has extended up through a porous southern border.”
He said heroin is making a comeback, “because we’re doing a good job with prescription drug abuse and diversion.”
“People can pay $20 or $40 for some prescription drug from a dealer, or they can pay $10 for a hit of heroin,” Crump said. “There is no tracking.”
He said he has begun talks with bordering DAs about the Interstate 75 corridor and its use in gang activity.
“We have to be ready for gang activity to become more prevalent in our area,” Crump said.
He also said Tennessee has the highest crime rate per capita in the country, and “you will be hearing about the need for more resources.”
Crump answered a question about the “militarization of the police force” in reference to the actions of law enforcement during the current situations in Missouri.
“We have to match up with what we face,” Crump said. “It doesn’t make any sense for me to send somebody out with a .38 caliber revolver to face an assault rifle.”
He said it makes no sense to send officers into a firefight when he has the ability to equip them with body armour and not put it on them.
“When you look what is going on in Ferguson, Missouri, right now you, can say it’s because of the militarization, but I think it’s the result of people seeing the opportunity to riot — plain and simple.”
He said he does not accept the term “militarization.”
“Law enforcement must be equipped to face the challenges they come in contact with,” Crump said. “The days of the neighborhood thug carrying a stick is over. Now they face body armour, they face illegal automatic weapons and I think law enforcement has to be equipped to protect us in that way.”
Crump said by constitution his authority is “virtually unbridled” showing several quotes supporting that description of the powers of his position.
“It matters who your district attorney is,” he said. “In a very real sense, this is the most powerful office in Tennessee today. It matters who exercises this authority.”
Crump said he begins every day with a prayer.
“I ask God for wisdom and that I am put in the place to serve Him best and to give me the wisdom to exercise the judgment to fulfill the duties of the job He has given me. And I pray I never let my life be more important than His ministry,” Crump said. “That’s how I look at this office. It’s responsibilities are awesome. It’s potential for abuse is frightening.”