Candidates for sheriff and commonwealth’s attorney participated in last Thursday’s Gwynn’s Island Civic League forum.
Incumbent Jack Gill and his challenger Tom Bowen were both present, along with Sheriff Danny Howlett and his opponent, Mark Barrick.
Bowen charged in opening statements that the commonwealth attorney’s office in Mathews is not prosecuting enough cases and that too many offenders are serving no sentences. He said the major enforcement issue in the county is hard drugs and that monthly meetings are needed with the regional task force and the state police to address common problems and use common resources.
Gill countered that his office is a model for commonwealth attorney’s offices across the state and that he has prosecuted 40 felons on 70 felonies over the past year in cases that include felony child abuse, malicious wounding, burglary, firearms violations and other offenses. He said he conducts five to six jury trials a year, has worked with the regional drug task force for the past 10 years, and has worked with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration within the past five years to put nine drug dealers in prison. He said his sentencing record is slightly higher than other localities in the area even though Mathews has lower levels of crime.
Howlett said that under his guidance, the sheriff’s office offers experience and professionalism to rival any department. Although it’s a small department, he said, it has made more than 500 arrests over the past year and has answered over 5,000 calls for service. He pointed out that the sheriff’s office is responsible for other duties beyond those that a police department offers, naming activities such as handling evictions for property owners, providing court security, operating the Code Red and Reverse 911 systems, transporting prisoners and mental health patients, and handling animal control operations.