DA on opioid addiction: 'This is their World War II'

By LARRY C. BOWERS
Posted 7/24/19

"This is their war," said 10th District Attorney Stephen Crump about today's younger generation, comparing deaths from the  opiod epidemic to the nation's fatalities in wartime."This is their …

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DA on opioid addiction: 'This is their World War II'

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"This is their war," said 10th District Attorney Stephen Crump about today's younger generation, comparing deaths from the  opiod epidemic to the nation's fatalities in wartime.

"This is their World War II," he added.

Crump was the guest speaker at a recent Cleveland Kiwanis Club luncheon at the Elks Lodge, repeating his message of crisis in discussing avoidable deaths from opiod overdose.

The district attorney general is a longtime advocate of education and prevention, in the use of opioids, and has been a front runner in regional awareness efforts.

He said the extent of the problem hit him quickly after he first became district attorney.

"I was sworn in at 9 o'clock, and at 10:27, I had an overdose death," he said.

He emphasized Tennessee has suffered 68,000 opioid deaths, which is greater than the number of soldiers we lost in the Vietnam War.

"The scope of this problem is enormous, and we don't have a realistic sense of the numbers," Crump continued, adding that a million Tennesseans have an addiction problem,  and there have been twice as many deaths from opioids as there  are from  automobile accidents and homicides. 

He said the fight against opioids, for all ages,  includes three elements: prosecution, education and prevention, and treatment, but the impact is the greatest for our younger population.

"This is the younger generation's World War II," he repeated. "In education, we have to make it cool to not use opioids, and for them to step up and save their friends. This is their moment to make a stand!" 

He also said the logistics are tremendous.

"We estimate we have 5,000 opioid addicts in Bradley County, and the jail (Bradley County Justice Center) can only hold 470," Crump stressed.

Crump said it is unfortunate Cleveland, and this region, are located at the confluence of two major drug pathways, from Mexico to New England, and from the Gulf Coast to the Detroit area.

"I have over 21 law enforcement agencies, and we've arrested 55 people who traveled from Detroit to Cleveland to sell drugs," he said. "We need to secure our southern borders, and I'm not talking about a border wall."

Crump said he believes 70% to 80% percent of crime in the 10th District is related to a substances. "This is what I feel, because I go through all the (law enforcement) forms," he emphasized.

The district attorney also touched on the legalization of hemp, and the probable legalization of marijuana. "Hemp today is your grandmother's marijuana of the 1960s," he said, adding that marijuana is more potent today.

In closing his talk on drugs, and marijuana, DA Crump said, "Legalization of marijuana is coming, get ready for it. The question is, how long can we hold it off." He said it's all about the money.

In relation to crime and violence, Crump said the people of Tennessee don't mean what they say, when they say we're tough on crime. "We're the second most violent state in the Union," he pointed out in referring to statistics.

The district attorney said we need criminal justice reform, but we must put the victims first, and increase accountability and public safety.

He said we also need to get serious about truth in sentencing.

"If someone breaks into your home, they should go to jail, and not receive self-esteem classes," he emphasized in relating to a perceived weakness in the current justice process.

In closing, Crump said his greatest honor is to represent the people of his hometown. He said he is loyal to his constituents, and to justice. 

At the end, he tossed in, "I'm going to run for re-election."

The first part of Crump's presentation was about his office, its mission and accomplishments.

District 10 covers Bradley, Polk, McMinn and Monroe counties, and 14 towns and cities. There  are 33 district prosecutors working with 21 law enforcement agencies, who handled 817 cases in 2017. This was 24.75 cases per prosecutors.

Crump supervised 15 prosecutors , and he said it's like coaching a middle school girls basketball team.

"They're constantly exposed to public scrutiny," he said.

The district is 1,850 square miles, sixth in size in the state, with the eighth largest population. Crump said it takes one hour and 25 minutes to drive across the district.

His office's trial conviction rate is 73%, up from 41%. He is also pleased with an overall conviction rate of 68%, improved from 53%.

Crump said cases being disposed of, within guidelines, is 89%.

"This means we're doing the right thing," he emphasized.

He then mentioned some of his campaign promises, which have been attained. They include a Madisonville office, a transparent office open to the public, a Gang Task Force, a Cold Case Task Force, a no-deal policy on violent crime, and the Opioid Initiative.


 

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