Written by Cory Twibell Friday, 24 June 2011 00:00
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice recently attended the Carle Place Civic Association’s monthly meeting and explained her “homegrown” route to her current position and some of the measures she and her team have taken to improve the quality of life in Nassau County.
Rice, 46, said she was born and raised in Garden City and was the seventh of 10 kids. Recalling what the secret was for a successful and committed marriage, Rice said her mother explained, “Your father and I had an agreement, the first one to leave takes the kids.
“I was growing up here in the late ’60s and ’70s and graduated high school in 1983. Education was a big part of my family and our parents wanted us to be mindful of giving back to the community in some way,” said Rice, who explained how that’s how she approaches her job as district attorney.
After working as a Federal prosecutor in Philadelphia and a trial prosecutor in Brooklyn, Rice returned to Nassau County in 2005.
“I think it’s really important for people in positions like I am in to change it up every once in a while and to have people who can come up with creative ideas,” said Rice.
The DA explained how her office had to be creative when addressing the need for cracking down on DWI laws, specifically with Leandra’s Law, which made it a felony (instead of misdemeanor) to drive drunk with a child in the car and having all first-time DWI offenders to use an ignition interlock for a minimum of six months to decrease the recidivist, or repeat offender, rate.
“When I became the DA, a third of the drunk driving arrests every year were people who had done it before, a huge number. I think the ignition interlock is going to have the most profound effect on that aspect of drunk driving.
“Having to go through the humiliation of getting into the car with your kids, your husband, your parents and having to blow into a device to start the car, that’s part of teaching people how dangerous this crime is and how seriously we are taking it in Nassau County,” said Rice.
The DA said that her office has also tried to increase the conviction rate of violent offenders by increasing the number of prosecutors in the county. She said she also believes in alternatives to prison programs, such as drug treatment programs, to help prevent crimes committed as a result of someone “trying to feed an addiction,” Rice added.
As for public corruption, Rice said the county is up against a difficult foe, but that her office is trying to speed up the turnaround of cases. The DA also said the county is tracking down those taking advantage of senior citizens through Medicaid fraud as well.
Rice cited some of the reasons behind her office’s newly formed animal cruelty unit as she proudly showed off her adopted canine, Pearl.
“Very often when you see signs of animal cruelty, they are also indicators of child abuse, domestic violence and gang activity,” she explained.
“People have to know that you can not abuse animals, who along with senior citizens and children, are among the most vulnerable,” Rice said.
The DA also noted the steps being taken to educate senior citizens and caretakers on elderly abuse and teens and parents on drunk driving as well as signs for drug addiction, seen in the “Not My Child” movement.
“The signs that would indicate drug addiction are the same kinds of signs that you think teenagers go through: they sleep a lot, girls might be losing weight, grades drop. Heroin is a growing problem that’s coming back because of the use of prescription drugs,” noting that the county organizes drug drop-off events several times a year.
“Pills are very expensive and there are no outward signs of use, no distinct smell or anything like that. When they run out of pills, heroin is a replacement. It’s cheap and they can snort it. It’s cheaper than a pack of cigarettes and a six-pack of beer,” said Rice.
Another program Rice explained was the “Stop Then Send” program, which helps educate young adults on the dangers of texting and emailing, including cyber-bullying, identity theft and sexting.
“Kids are held responsible for disseminating indecent material. It’s a felony and they don’t even understand it,” said Rice.
For more information on Rice’s initiatives, visit www.nassauda.org or www.cpcivic.org for Carle Place Civic Association updates.