Laramie County D.A.: Some Cases Are ‘Falling Through The Cracks’
Laramie County District Attorney Jeremiah Sandburg says some criminal cases in the county are not being prosecuted because his office just doesn't have the needed manpower.
He also says that while that situation isn't new, it is likely to get worse over the next few years. Sandburg says in his last budget request to state lawmakers, he asked for funding for 25 positions in his office but was given the money for only 19.
Wyoming District Attorneys are funded through the state, unlike County Attorneys, who are funded by county governments. Wyoming lawmakers have been struggling for several years with declining revenues caused by a downturn in the state's energy industries.
Sandburg says the problems with lack of manpower in the District Attorney's office and the result that some cases don't get prosecuted go back to at least 2005 when then-District Attorney Jon Forewood ran up against the same kind of manpower challenges.
He says currently some of his attorneys are working 70-80 hours a week but are still not able to handle every case that comes to his office. He says the situation is further complicated by the fact that some of his staff is made up of hourly employees who are capped at no more than 40 hours a week.
Sandburg says his office tries to give top priority to violent crimes, especially those committed against children, the elderly and other especially vulnerable victims. He says that means if his office is presented with the choice of handling the theft of an item like a bicycle as opposed to a child abuse case, the abuse case will get priority.
The D.A. says the situation is likely to get even worse in coming years, as crime from Colorado spreads to Laramie County.
Sandburg says not only his office but the local criminal justice system and the jails are not properly equipped to handle what he sees as a rising tide of crime caused in large part by the legalization of marijuana in Colorado. He also notes that, unlike many counties in Wyoming, Laramie County's population is growing, and more people inevitably leads to more crime.