The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Monday, June 13, 2005

Attorney general candidate Baril makes visit; A33

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

WINCHESTER — Virginia’s biggest crime problem is drug related, and one of the two GOP candidates for attorney general presented his plan to stop it on Friday.

Republican candidate for attorney general Steve Baril made a brief appearance at Winchester Regional Airport, laying out his plan to make the commonwealth safer and to ask for votes.

Baril is running against Del. Bob McDonnell, R-Virginia Beach, for the GOP spot on the November ballot. The winner will face state Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, who is unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

Drugs and the gang violence that comes along with them will be the major challenges for the next attorney general, Baril said, speaking to a small crowd of media and supporters.

“This is one of the biggest challenges facing the commonwealth,” he said. The approach to date has been conferences, grants and other administrative approaches.

When it’s all over, “everybody sings ‘Kumbaya’ but not a single arrest has been made,” he said.

The only real solution, he said, is to put trained professionals on the street. Just what role the new state troopers he is seeking would play remains to be seen — “I’m not in the business of micro-managing law enforcement,” he said.

Regardless, the troopers will augment the manpower available to local law enforcement and make more arrests.

Baril also said he wants to put more teeth into the state’s criminal sentencing guidelines.

“Commonwealth’s attorneys across the state … agree that in cases of [breaking and entering], grand larceny, repeat drug offenders and some sex offenses, the sentencing guidelines have been systematically ‘dumbed down,’” he said.

Instead of being used to sentence criminals, they are used to manage prison and jail populations.

“Why bother [making arrests], when [those convicted] walk out the front door with the officers that arrested them?” he said.

Tougher guidelines could be coupled with drug courts — specialized courts in places like Chesterfield County, Richmond,

Roanoke and some counties Southwest Virginia that focus on rehabilitating non-violent offenders.

Expansion of the courts across the commonwealth would be one of Baril’s top priorities, the candidate said.

“Why? Because they work,” he said. “Every pilot program has produced a dramatic drop in the recidivism rate and an equally dramatic savings to the taxpayers. And they’ve helped people turn their lives around.”