SAN ANTONIO – For the first time ever, the Bexar County District Attorney's Office offered a comprehensive look at the progress and accomplishments of the department.
District Attorney Nico LaHood on Wednesday delivered the assessment during the first-ever state of the District Attorney speech, a speech that the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce plans to offer annually.
LaHood, well into his first term in office, delivered insight into the changes he promised and those he's already made. He called it "changing the culture." But LaHood said the changes affect many areas, including attitudes of investigators, jail population and budgets.
"We are dealing with some kids (who) are stuck with some crappy parents. And that's just a fact," LaHood said bluntly, as he explained the change of approach within the district attorney's office with regard to child abuse investigations and outcomes.
Statistics show LaHood is taking child abuse cases seriously. In 2014, the office tried 47 felony child abuse cases and had a 50 percent conviction rate. In 2015, the rate went up significantly to 87 felony cases tried with a 70 percent conviction rate. LaHood said 2016 is on track to follow suit.
LaHood's overall conviction rate is also showing major increases. The rate increased from 52 percent in 2014 to 70 percent in 2015. He said 2016 is on track to exceed the 2015 rate.
There's also been an increase in cases tried, rising from 102 in 2014 to 165 in 2015, LaHood said. But he said that he's taking a comprehensive approach to the office that includes new programs to provide balance. LaHood said, at the end of the day, every case is questioned as to whether the office got it right.
"This is not just a file. These are lives that are affected. Spouses, children, grandchildren, siblings, parents, lives," he said. "Did we get it right for everyone involved? That's for the person accused and the people who were victimized."
To answer that question, he's formed eight new programs that include a Trial Advocacy Program, Conviction Integrity Task Force, Law Enforcement Integrity Unit and Community Advocacy Program. The programs are intended to provide the sort of checks and balances that will ensure the district attorney's office is not narrow-sighted in its approach to justice.
LaHood also proudly pointed to his business skills, which he made apparent by reducing the number of inmates at the Bexar County Jail by 325 inmates since 2014. He said the move saves the county $16,250 a day in savings and nearly $6 million annually.
After the speech, Ramiro Cavazos, president and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said this demonstration of transparency regarding the district attorney's office inner workings was exciting to witness.