New DA raising the cost of crime

Cory Crenshaw

Jefferson County Criminal District Attorney, Cory Crenshaw, doesn’t have much time to make his impact on Jefferson County, but as the interim District Attorney just passed his 100th day in office, he says he’s well on his way to righting more than a few wrongs.

“I don’t want to be known as the DA who spoke well and gave good interviews and was on TV more than any DA in the history of our County,” he said. “I want to be known as the DA that actually got our ship righted and made a difference. In order to do that, I’ve got to get results.” 

Crenshaw said his main goal is restore his community’s faith and belief in law and order. “My office will do that by holding criminals accountable”.

Ever since the creation of his infamous task force in conjunction with Malcolm Bales’ US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas, Crenshaw said he will fight to accomplish two major issues facing Jefferson County: violent crime and the abuse of public trust. 

As of Monday, May 12, Crenshaw was sworn in as a special assistant U.S. attorney who will help try the very defendants he’s fought to bring to justice as District Attorney. 

“I’m almost positive that I’m the only DA in the state that’s also a deputized federal prosecutor,” he said.

In April, the county’s new DA sent out a press release announcing April as the month of reconciliation of sorts: those with direct knowledge of BISD’s wrongdoings, could come forward with their stories and consideration would be given to those who committed crimes. 

The response he got was overwhelming. 

“That was successful. Several people did come forward,” Crenshaw said. “We were getting so many inquiries that we had to set up a hotline... it was frustrating at some points because we were getting so many calls.”

That hotline, it seems, has led to several investigations not just into BISD, but other public entities as well. “I would anticipate that this summer we will start to present the findings of our investigators — what they’ve come up with so far with their investigations — to grand juries, both federal and state...” he said. Crenshaw scoffed at the notion by certain BISD officials and others who claimed that BISD’s former Director of Finance Devin McCraney and Comptroller  Sharika Allison were the sole embezzlers and criminals engaged in BISD. Crenshaw said that more has been uncovered and continues to be uncovered. 

“Anyone who thinks that the investigation and the accountability within BISD is going to start and stop with those two guilty pleas is gravely mistaken,” Crenshaw said. 

As for Commissioner Williams and his decision to take over BISD’s board and replace them with a board of managers, Crenshaw said, “I do believe that change does have a positive impact on our ability in the criminal justice side to move forward and have as complete and thorough investigation as possible. So, from that point of view, I commend Commissioner Williams and I believe it’s a positive step.”

Raising the price of crime

 As food prices, gas prices and other necessities increase in cost for honest hard working individuals and small businesses around the state and country, Crenshaw said it’s up to him to raise the cost of crime for criminals in Jefferson County. 

“We are increasing our fines that criminal defendants are facing. We are reevaluating our guidelines for cases we accept for prosecution. At the same time, we’re also trying to be more aggressive in cases involving children who are sexually abused and other violent offenders. We are moving away from any type of probation on those cases and trying to make sure that when the facts and circumstances warrant it, those offenders are receiving lengthy prison sentences,” Crenshaw said. “Also when, of course, it comes to public corruption and violent crime through the use of programs like the task force and a potential civil gang injunction in Port Arthur, again we’re just trying to raise the bar and make criminals out there understand that the cost of doing business for criminals in Jefferson County is going up.”

Crenshaw said a civil gang injunction is a legal maneuver by which a specific geographical area called a “safety zone” is targeted by police for the prevention of violent crime. As a former Brazos county prosecutor, Crenshaw saw first hand when they utilized that maneuver as a proactive crime fighting tool they saw as much as 30 to sometimes 50 percent reduction in calls for service, in those areas. “We brought so much attention on them (gang members) and they never knew when they were going to get arrested that many of them quit the gang or simply left town.”

Although his tenure will officially end in January 2015 when voters will decide who becomes Jefferson County’s new district attorney, Crenshaw said he plans to change the perception of some that justice in Jefferson County is only for the few. 

“Even a perception of a lack of accountability is extremely problematic,” he said. “It’s not as much about me making a mark as it is me hopefully changing that perception.”