Population surge sparks increase in felony crime cases - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Population surge sparks increase in felony crime cases

(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)
ELMORE CO., AL (WSFA) -

Gaining the title of one of the fastest growing counties in the state doesn't come without a price.

Elmore County, known most for its massive population growth and the development to follow, is experiencing a surge in crime, something the rural county has never been exposed to.

Elmore County District Attorney, Randall Houston, showed WSFA 12 News a table packed with ten bankers' boxes, filled to the brim.

He points out that half of the cases in one box is the normal caseload for a six month grand jury session.

Twenty years later, more than 200 cases are on the docket for an upcoming grand jury session.

Houston knew the population was growing in Elmore County long before an updated census report, simply by his increased caseload.

"Elmore County is a target-rich environment," Houston said. "Most of our people are gone to work during the day and it makes for easy targets. As a result, we have a lot of criminal actions, and it keeps the sheriff's office and the police departments very busy."

Houston says it's a tough push for his three prosecutors to get ready for a grand jury with 203 cases, while managing their daily caseload.

As he points at the packed table Houston explains, "This is just circuit court files here. We have juvenile court, district court, we have child support courts. We have a myriad of other courts."

The heart of the issue is funding.

Houston was elected to office in 2001 with a $1.1 million budget. Nearly 14 years and a massive population spike later, his office is feeling the holes of a $1.4 million budget.

Houston admits, "We do feel like crime is an unfunded mandate."

Houston's offices in Elmore, Chilton and Autauga Counties have recently tackled major, head-line grabbing cases ranging from high profile capital murder to historic child abuse case, putting a serious strain on resources.

It's not rare for the office to pull in other assistant district attorneys from outside counties to cover cases in Elmore County, when every judge has a full docket.

As for a breaking point, "Circuit court takes priority. Those are the dangerous felony cases. Hopefully the day will never come when I have to tell a district court judge, I don't have anyone here."

Copyright 2014 WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.

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