District Attorneys call for more funding

NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) – The North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys reports the state court system’s in such desperate need of more tax dollars, it’s creating a public safety issue.

State budget shortfalls since 2010 have forced lawmakers to cut district attorney budgets.

Craven, Carteret and Pamlico Counties District Attorney Scott Thomas said he’s lost about 25 percent of his staff including three legal assistants and his one case investigator.

“When we have less staff, less resources, that means it takes longer to process cases in the criminal justice system,” Thomas said.

District Attorney Seth Edwards covers five counties and budget cuts forced him to close his Martin County office almost three days a week.

Thomas didn’t want to partially shut down his offices so he had to get creative.

“Instead of our victim/witness legal assistants actually working on criminal case files, they’re at the front desk answering phones,” he said.

North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys director Peg Dorer said since 2010, about 97 positions in DAs offices throughout the state were cut by lawmakers due to budget shortfalls.

“You really want the experienced people to be handling those cases to protect the public,” Dorer said.

As state tax revenues are projected to rise, Thomas wants lawmakers to restore some of his lost positions next year.

“So that we can efficiently and effectively prosecute cases so that we can put dangerous criminals in prison where they belong,” Thomas said.

The state General Assembly will return to session on April 25, 2016.

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