Boone County Prosecutor Kent Eastwood shared his thoughts on the justice center and explained how it would benefit his office as well as all related county governmental departments. The prosecutor’s office currently houses 30 members of Eastwood’s staff, and they are officially out of space. Additionally, the prosecutors’ caseloads have increased since the start of 2021, and even if Eastwood was granted funds to add to his staff, he wouldn’t have any place to put them.
Keeping Up With Exponential Growth
“The prosecutor’s job isn’t to lock everybody away. The prosecutor’s job is to hold people accountable, and how you hold them accountable is different for each individual in each case,” Kentwood shared. “Over the years, we’ve tried to expand services for people so that they don’t re-offend. As a prosecutor, my main goal is to hold that person accountable, get justice for the victim to try and make them whole again, make our communities safe and do it all in a way so that the person who committed the crime doesn’t re-offend. That might be sending them to prison, probation or community corrections, diversions or dismissal.”
When asked what some of the root causes of the increase in crimes in Boone County are, Eastwood replied, “More people are coming into our communities, so we have seen an uptick in crime, and we’re catching more people because we have more officers and deputies on the roads.”
Boone County Commissioner Tom Santelli added, “With the passage of the Public Safety LIT [tax], we [Boone County] were able to hire more officers. Kent has been rotating prosecutors in the Whitestown Police Station as a first-off program that is aimed at educating officers and investigators.”
Eastwood explained that his office has partnered with the Whitestown Police Department where they have a dedicated office to work from.
“We rotate prosecutors right now, but our goal is to have 100% coverage and have one person assigned, but because of manpower issues and lack of funding, we have to rotate people,” Eastwood stated. “I go down once a week. My primary responsibility is to train officers on the new legislation that went into effect this year, to help the officers prepare documents, answer questions, train them and help them.”
When asked if Eastwood is working with Zionsville Police Department to create the same kind of partnership, he said, “I’m hoping that when [Zionsville] gets a new police station that they will consider having a prosecutor in that space as well.”
The Causes of Crime and Ways to Curb the Rising Crime Stats
With the ripple effects of the Public Safety LIT and the county’s growth, Eastwood stated that Boone County has been uncovering more crime with more officers and eyes on the road.
“If you’re asking me what some of the biggest issues of crime are in Boone County, I’ll tell you that—luckily—we don’t have a lot of major crime. We have the occasional things that happen, which are usually not indicative of a criminal mindset but of someone with significant mental health issues. Most of the violent crimes in the county are committed by people coming into the community.”
Eastwood added, “The internal crimes that drive our investigations are related to sex, drugs, and guns. We have a huge problem when it comes to sexual abuse of children and child pornography, as we’ve seen in Zionsville. That’s why funding Sylvia’s Child Advocacy Center (CAC) is huge. And it’s why we have to invest in having specialized units and specialized detectives for these crimes.”
“When you combine the two numbers—the county income tax rate and the county property tax—we’re like the 10th lowest in the state,” Eastwood explained. “We are gold when it comes to our finances, but what is the level of the services that we are providing to our citizens? I’m sorry, but I think our citizens deserve and expect a gold standard. They expect us to do our jobs and be the best at them. There are times when we’re unable to do that, and in order for us to provide a gold standard of services and provide the best possible services to accomplish what we should be accomplishing, that is what the justice center represents to me. If you want us to do the job that you expect us to do, give us the tools.”
With a Justice Center Comes Opportunities and Efficiencies
“The justice center will give us options by having the necessary space,” Eastwood stated. “Think about the future of Boone County government and what it’s going to look like in terms of physical space. By creating a justice center, that will give us a lot more options. We can house community corrections and probation services in a manner which is specifically designed for them today and into the future.”
The current prosecutor’s office has been renovated during Eastwood’s tenure to attempt to meet the needs of his growing staff and services.
“I was able to renovate a whole floor of our building without using a single tax dollar to make more offices,” Eastwood shared. “We used existing dollars and/or federal money to do it. But we have people sharing offices in areas that were never designed to be offices, and when all our conference spaces are being used, we have to meet with victims in our general areas instead of a private room.”
Many people may not have toured the county jail—ever or recently. It currently houses several people in its basement who are also in makeshift offices that were storage closets or maintenance closets. The evidence locker is grossly inadequate for the size of the county. Eastwood is hopeful that, along with moving their offices to the justice center, the justice center will also include a proper forensic lab.
“We’ve got to be at the forefront of criminal investigations,” Eastwood emphasized. “By building a justice center, it will incorporate the sheriff’s department and a forensic lab to do our data retrieval from. We will have proper computers, state-of-the-art software and the proper machines to then go through the drug dealers’ phones showing they’re dealing drugs or to go through the child molesters’ phones and computers. With the attorney in Zionsville who was charged with possession of child pornography, it took us two months to go through his stuff, and we found 1,300 images. We’ve got to expand our capabilities, and having a forensic lab in the [proposed] justice center will help us do that.”Boone County Prosecutor Kent Eastwood
Eastwood concluded, “One of the things that I’ve said to the Boone County councilmembers is, ‘Don’t go cheap.’ I know people don’t want to hear that, but let’s build something that’s going to last, and let’s not build something that three years later, we need to renovate.”