Newly inaugurated Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins is tapping the brakes on her list of 15 crimes she won’t prosecute, saying she is taking a “long and hard” look at the list first.
Rollins, addressing her controversial list after being sworn in at Roxbury Community College on Wednesday, said she wants “everything to be a case-by-case basis.” She said feedback from the community and police was key.
“We’re going to be looking long and hard at this list, I am very clear that we will be holding people accountable but jail is going to be the last option with respect to those 15,” Rollins said. The list includes crimes from shoplifting and trespassing to drug possession, resisting arrest and larceny under $ 250.
The list is now causing less of a stir with officials, with Boston police Commissioner William Gross saying he was not concerned — “Nope, not at all,” he said.
Chelsea police Chief Brian Kyes said he is “optimistic” about working with Rollins, but remains concerned about anything relating to drug dealing.
“There was some issues that were originally issues with drugs … of course as a law enforcement officer, I have a concern and I will continue to have concern with a lack of prosecution with people selling drugs,” said Kyes, who added he plans to meet and work with Rollins frequently.
Rollins — who stressed her focus will be making “neighborhoods safe” — was joined Wednesday by members of her staff and family along with Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Gov. Charlie Baker and Sen. Edward J. Markey, who all expressed their support.
“If you talk to her about her list it really goes back to people who are addicted, people who are sick and is that the proper thing to do to put them in prison or get them help, and I think that’s a lot of what myself and Rachael have talked about,” said Walsh.
But Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, still isn’t sold on Rollins’ policy, especially shoplifters.
“We can’t just catch and release those that are repeat offenders and allow them to steal from honest consumers,” said Hurst.
Residents and shop owners at Grove Hall in Roxbury, meanwhile, weighed in on their new district attorney. Ruhi Rahman, a Northeastern University student from Roxbury, said the no-prosecute list is a “good idea.”
“Minorities are targeted for those (low-level) crimes. It’s just part of the larger problem that results in people being absent from family, which affects how kids growing up with absent family members perform in school. There’s probably better ways to target low-level offenses than prison sentences,” said Rahman.
But Mohamed Kaba, manager of Matam Home Decor in Dorchester, was against Rollins’ progressive ideas.
“If you steal something $ 100 in value, you should go to jail. It’s a crime, something that does not belong to you,” he said. “If everyday people come and steal something and a business does not make enough profit, it will have to close. It’s tough these days.”