AG in area to ‘keep in touch’

ESCANABA – In an effort to keep in touch with the public, the state attorney general visited Escanaba, where he addressed several issues at Hereford & Hops on Wednesday.

“Part of my job is staying in touch and being linked in with everyone,” Attorney General Bill Schuette told the gathering of about three dozen people who attended the “Dessert and Discussion” session sponsored by the Delta County Area Chamber of Commerce.

Schuette, of Midland, has served as Michigan’s attorney general since 2011. He has also served as a congressman, the state director of agriculture, a state senator, and a Michigan Court of Appeals judge.

As attorney general, Schuette explained he is the state’s chief law enforcement official.

“It’s my duty to enforce the law and protect and defend the Constitution,” he added.

On an annual basis, his office handles about 40,000 cases involving public safety, consumer protection, environmental threats and other concerns, he said.

A current issue being investigated by the attorney general’s office is human trafficking of young girls and women who are forced into work or prostitution.

The Michigan Court of Appeals recently granted a grand jury investigation into what Schuette described as “one of the fastest growing crimes in the nation.” A commission will compile a report on ways to toughen the laws against human trafficking, he said.

Last week, the attorney general’s office announced a phone/text hotline program geared to make schools safer. “OK 2 Say” allows callers to confidentially report potential acts of violence in schools including suicides and shootings, he explained.

A law that passed in Michigan in 2012 regards a mandatory 25 years in prison for criminals convicted of a fourth violent felony, he said, complimenting local legislators for their cooperation in passing the legislation.

The attorney general’s office is also involved in a grand jury investigation into a fungal meningitis outbreak that killed four and afflicted 259 people in four downstate counties, said Schuette.

Topics of concern raised by those attending Wednesday’s session included Asian carp, the Affordable Care Act, the local juvenile detention center, money scams, Internet sales tax, local mental health and drug abuse issues, and enforcement of the multi-jurisdiction agreement to manage Little Bay de Noc.

During an interview at the Daily Press earlier in the day, Schuette also spoke of the Michigan Cyber Safety Initiative (CSI) organized to inform parents and children about Internet safety.

“We have three ‘keeps.’ Keep safe with peers information, keep away from bad sites, and keep talking to trusted adults,” he explained.

The attorney general said he is hoping the early warning system is put in place by the new school year, so school violence can be prevented before it happens.

In addition to protecting youth, Schuette said his office also works to protect the elder population especially when it comes to scams.

“We’re very aggressive on standing up for senior citizens,” he commented.

Schuette addressed the need to keep prisoners locked up but also keep prison costs down by operating the system more efficiently. Bidding out some services may be a step in that direction, he said.

Though a current focus is to drive down prison costs, Schuette said his office will ensure victims’ voices are heard. He added he is urging legislators to put more cops on the street.

He and his staff have also been involved in a national settlement case involving foreclosures conducted by four major banks. A restitution fund has been set up for victims, he said.

After leaving Escanaba, Schuette and staff headed to Marquette to meet with the public there.