To the Editor:
A question asked by the Daily Chronicle in its candidate questionnaire was “What is the biggest threat to public safety at the moment, and how can the State’s Attorney’s help protect county residents?” My husband, Richard Schmack’s, answer was that in DeKalb County the greatest threat to our citizens is automobile crashes. This is cynically derided by Clay Campbell and his supporters, so I wanted to address that. Keep in mind, Richard also said that violence and drugs are serious threats and outlined plans to address those, but that what affects more lives in our county are traffic accidents. Just look at the crosses on our rural highways.
As a parent, I know that when our sons are out, the phone call I fear most is the one that tells me they have been in an accident. I know I am not alone in that worry. After all, we live in a pretty safe community, despite the headlines Campbell uses to scare you into voting for him. When was the last time your child went out with friends in this community that you worried that they would be caught up in gang crossfire? But car accidents? They are an occurrence that happens often enough that we are rightfully concerned.
Police arrest traffic offenders in an attempt to keep us safe. In 2011, 18,365 traffic violations were charged in this county, many of them misdemeanors, and 664 DUIs were charged. But what happens after those charges are filed? If the offenders charged are not forced to do anything to change their driving habits, they are going to go right back to driving the same way on our roads and being a threat to our safety.
Since the beginning of his administration, the number of DUI defendants Campbell has lifted suspensions for has doubled. Through July 2, none of them were required to have a device on their vehicles to make sure they were sober before starting their engines. Only two were required to get a SCRAM bracelet, which reports if they drink any alcohol.
Paying fines is not enough to make people change their habits. They just see that as a cost of their lifestyle. We need a state’s attorney who takes these offenses seriously. My husband, Richard Schmack, is that person.