Are State Laws Tough Enough On Repeat Offenders?
Lexington’s east end was recently the focus of a major drug investigation. Police arrested 55 people, almost all with prior records.
Fayette Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Larson says if persistent felony offenders are out on the streets, they will do what they do. He says that is commit crimes and create victims.
"The second time that they shot I heard the glass break," said 74-year-old Lillie Belle Smith.
Twice this summer, stray bullets hit her home.
"They say it was a big gun. I don’t know a big gun from a little gun," said Smith.
The shootings happened while she slept, somehow missing her.
"I think it’s something about drugs," said Smith.
She says police haven’t made an arrest in either shooting.
"The police is doing the best they can, and all that they can do," said Smith.
Larson says state laws don’t allow police to do enough. he blames a law called HB-463, which he’s nicknamed.
"Catch and release. Hug-a-thug. Just any number of them," said Larson.
The law aims to prevent crime and reduce the number of repeat offenders. The law’s primary sponsor, Representative John Tilley (D-Hopkinsville), says the law’s main focus is to make sure drug addicts don’t get legally labeled persistent felony offenders. Tilley says Kentucky has some of the harshest punishments in the country for repeat felony offenders. He wants drug addicts to get treatment instead of prison time.
Larson says too many criminals are getting probation.
"I don’t know what they’re thinking in Frankfort," said Larson.
The law also allows police to give a ticket instead of making certain misdemeanor arrests, like breaking into a car.
"Guess what the police officer tells you as he leave: ‘Have a good day!’ Well, thanks," said Larson.
Tilley says the car break-in example was an unintended consequence of HB-463, and he wants to change it.
Police tell us they don’t make laws. They only enforce them.
"Haha, absolutely they’re frustrated. They’re discouraged," said Larson.
Larson saws the law switches the cost of crime from jails and prisons to victims like Smith.
At 74 she won’t move, or live in fear. She lives in faith.
Her bible stopped one of the bullets.
"When it’s time for you to go. You will go," said Smith.
Rep. Tilley says the law is tough on criminals and smart on crime. Tilley says HB-463 is becoming a national model. He says since the law went into effect crime statewide has dropped.
Tilley also says since the law went into effect, the number of repeat offenders has decreased.