|Harrington Kicks Off Campaign For District Attorney|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
01:10AM / Thursday, May 24, 2018
|Andrea Harrington held her first Pittsfield campaign event for district attorney on Wednesday. She also held campaign kickoffs in South County and North County.|
Shirley Edgerton said Harrington has a better sense of the power of the office.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Andrea Harrington says the "status quo" in the district attorney's office is not working for Berkshire County.
"It is time to have a district attorney with integrity and who is accountable to this community," Harrington said.
The local attorney said North Adams has the highest crime rate per capita in the state and Pittsfield ranks ninth.The district attorney's office, which had been occupied by David Capeless for the last 14 years, can do much more in a preventative manner than it has been doing, she said.
Harrington is now running for the office against Capeless' hand-picked successor Paul Caccaviello and Great Barrington attorney Judith Knight.
"We've had four women murdered here in Berkshire County in the past year, three due to domestic violence. It is time for law enforcement to be accountable. There are lots of programs that are being tried and uses successfully across the state that we're not doing here. These are practical things that work and we know that they work," Harrington said.
"An hour away in Hampshire and Franklin County they have a high-risk domestic violence task force program. It is people from law enforcement, people from the advocacy community, people from the Department of Children and Families. They come together. They look for the signs of people who are at high risk for committing domestic violence, people who are high risk for being victims of domestic violence. They have not had a single domestic violence homicide in the past five years. That's how prevention works. And we have a district attorney's office who says that's not their responsibility."
She said there are plenty of people and organizations tackling issues of poverty and the opioid epidemic and that the district attorney's office should be a leader in those efforts and not just serve as a prosecutor.
"The district attorney has a lot of power in the system," Harrington said. "We need to work together as a community to tackle these tough problems."
When it comes to those struggling with addiction, she said the current district attorney's office isn't working on diversion programs or trying to get addicts into treatment. She said it costs $87,000 a year to house somebody at the Berkshire County House of Correction and she'd rather see that money allocated back into helping people beat their addiction and get into job training programs, so they can become productive citizens again.
"We know once somebody touches the criminal justice system the chances of them coming back grow exponentially. We want to keep people out of jail. We want to get people the help they need," Harrington said.
However, she is not saying she'd be soft on crime. She recalled times during her law career when she sat face to face with people whom she didn't feel comfortable with being out on the streets.
"It is the responsibility of the district attorney to keep this community safe. And sometimes that means sending people to jail. There are people who are dangerous and they belong in jail," Harrington said.
Her focus is to keep the low-level crimes from clogging up the system, getting the people involved in those the help they need, and then back onto their feet while going after the more serious criminals and locking them up.
Harrington said she also knows that people of color are disproportionately involved in the court systems at a higher rate, that people of color get bails set five times more than white people. But she can't quantify that because the current district attorney's office doesn't track it. She said that isn't a priority for the office now.
She also feels the office is currently out of touch with the community and said she'd create a citizens advisory board.
While she has plenty of ideas to take into the office, she almost didn't get a chance. Starting back in January, Capeless hid his retirement from the public, intentionally mislead reporters by pulling nomination papers to make it seem like he was running, all while concurrently plotting with the governor to pass the reins on to Caccaviello
so he could run for the job as an incumbent. Capeless' retirement and appointment of Caccaviello came on March 1, giving little time for others to get their nomination papers in.
"They tried to keep me out of this race. They tried to go as late as possible so I couldn't get my signatures," Harrington said. "But you know what, we had 50 volunteers from across the county and we got 1,500 certified signatures. On Sept. 4 they are going to really know that they are accountable for this community."
Harrington kicked off her campaign against what she called the "old boy's club" at Patrick's Pub on Wednesday night. All three candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination during the Sept. 4 primary and, with no Republican running, the primary winner will become the next district attorney. The kickoff was one of three Harrington hosted -- one in each section of the county.
Shirley Edgerton introduced Harrington as supporters mingled in and out of the space throughout the evening.
"We need a district attorney who will operate in equity, truth, and justice for all. Andrea is aware of the power and impact of this position," Edgerton said.
Harrington lives in Richmond where she and her husband, Tim, are raising their two sons. She is an attorney at Connor & Morneau LLP and has been practicing law for more than 15 years. She has been actively involved in the region, serving as a member of her local Affordable Housing Committee, School Council, and as an advisory board member of the regional non-profit BerkShares Inc. She also is a member of the Richmond School Committee and co-founder of the Berkshire Committee of the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus. She is a member of the Berkshire Bar Association and Hampden County Bar Association and has experience in criminal law and civil litigation.
She most recently ran an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for state Senate. She was defeated in that race by Adam Hinds.