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A license to parent, Paris and more ...

By ANNE LINDBERG
Published June 22, 2007


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SEMINOLE - Bernie McCabe, the Pinellas-Pasco state attorney, talked about licensing parents, the crime rate, property taxes, Paris Hilton and a variety of other subjects during Thursday's meeting of the Seminole Chamber of Commerce.

At the end, he took some questions. His answers here are a combination of paraphrase and quotes.

Is the crime rate really dropping?

The crime rate has dropped in the past few years and, when new figures are released next week, it will likely show a continued decline. But "absolute crime has gone up." The crime rate is the number of crimes per 100, 000 people, so it can drop if the population increases faster than the number of crimes. The rate has decreased because of stricter sentencing laws that are keeping criminals in jail for longer periods of time. "That has been truly successful. It has given our system credibility that it didn't have before."

What has been the most challenging issue of your career?

The impact of drugs on crime. Statistics are not available, but (I believe) 60 percent to 70 percent of crime is attributable to "mind-altering substances" including alcohol.

Should marijuana be legalized?

"Marijuana is not a huge contributor to the problem." But a move to legalize it likely would not get much traction and is unwise.

What about jail overcrowding?

It's a local issue. Statewide, there are about 90, 000 inmates and about 3, 000 empty beds. Building jails is rather like building Tropicana Field, "if we build it, they will come. That's just the way the jail works."

Is there room for Paris Hilton?

"Yes, sir, we'll have room for Paris. Now, our medical wing is not as fancy as theirs out there."

What's a main cause of youth crime?

Parents. It's "ironic" and "crazy" to think that people need a license to drive, to fish and to hunt, but not to have as many children as they want. "I think the key to all this (is) parenting."

North Pinellas has a "huge" problem with kids binge drinking. The parents are not upset because they think it's okay when it's happening at home or at a friend's house.

What's your take on the property tax issue?

"There's no question a fix is needed, " he said, " but look at the proposal carefully before voting ... I caution you. When the cuts come, (it) may be one of your favorite services. ..."

[Last modified June 22, 2007, 03:30:37]


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