Plymouth DA Tim Cruz: ‘We’re Not Your Grandfather’s DA’s Office’
For over two decades, Plymouth County District Attorney Tim Cruz (R) has been on the front lines facing the most pressing issues of public safety in the South Shore, Greater Brockton, and the SouthCoast – and he believes that the wave of progressive DAs throughout the country have been derelict in their duty to keep their constituents safe.
"They talk about reimagining criminal justice, and I say this: you don't have to reimagine anything," Cruz said in a recent appearance on SouthCoast Tonight. "San Francisco, L.A., Portland, Seattle, New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia – crime is skyrocketing left and right in those places because they refuse to do their jobs. Their job is to prosecute the laws. Not just the laws they like, but to prosecute them all."
When asked what his office would do with low-level nonviolent offenses such as simple possession of a controlled substance, Cruz said they do consider diverting (declining to prosecute) those cases depending on the criminal history of the individual who is charged, and that it's a practice that his and many other DA's offices have been implementing for decades.
"Many of the progressive DAs across America talk about diversion like they invented it," he said. "They didn't. It's been around for 40 years."
Cruz also discussed the work his office is doing outside of the courthouse and in the community such as diversion programs to help individuals afflicted with mental illness and drug addiction, early-intervention initiatives to prevent minors in underserved communities from turning to crime, and the work his office has done to combat the opioid crisis.
"We're not your grandfather's DA's office," Cruz said. "It's not just prosecuting cases anymore now with this specialized courts, drug courts, mental health courts, veterans courts. We're doing more things in the community and working together."
Cruz mentioned specifically the Plymouth County Drug Abuse Task Force, which he co-founded with Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph McDonald. He explained that around the time that overdose deaths in the Commonwealth and nationwide began to double, virtually every town in the county founded their own local organizations with the focus of trying to stop the cascade of opioid-related deaths that were devastating their community.
The task force is a broad coalition of these community organizations as well as experts in the field of opioid addiction and suicide prevention, educators from Bridgewater State University and Quincy College, law enforcement agencies, members of the legislature, members of the judiciary, faith-based organizations, and hospitals.
The primary focus is getting the right information to confront the problem of opioid addiction in Plymouth County by trying to find the supply of these harmful substances.
"You need to go after and reduce the supply and you need to let people understand that if they are going to sell that poison – and that's what it is – and they are killing our loved ones, that they are going to be held accountable." Cruz said.
Cruz also discussed the "Handle With Care" program that his office started in the Brockton School District which is targeted toward helping at-risk youth who are exposed to violence at a young age. Cruz's office coordinated with behavioral health specialists to train school personnel to help students who are dealing with trauma so that they don't feel abandoned in a time of need.
As far as policy changes in the courtroom he would like to see, Cruz expressed support for the legislation by Governor Charlie Baker, who has endorsed Cruz's campaign for reelection, to expand the crimes for which a defendant could potentially be held under the "dangerousness" law. Cruz that said that the law would give the DA's office "more tools in the toolbox" to protect the public from those accused of serious offenses such as sexually abusing a child.
When asked about why many high-profile Democratic elected officials such as Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey have endorsed against him, Cruz pivoted to the endorsements he's received from many of the police unions, firefighter unions, and labor unions throughout his county.
"I'll go with the men women who everyday put their lives on the lines and make a difference in people's lives," Cruz said emphatically. "I'll take them every day of the week and twice on Sunday."
Listen to Chris and Marcus' full interview with Plymouth D.A. Tim Cruz on SouthCoast Tonight.