By Bill Howard
The monthly meeting of the Concord Farragut Club at Fruition Cafe last Thursday night had an interesting trilogy of speakers.
Charme Allen spoke first. Allen, the District Attorney General for Knox County, gave the crowd a general overview of her office’s operations, and reported a number of crime statistics.
“What we do in my office is prosecute state crimes,” Allen told the crowd of 30. “I have 85 people working in my office. Think about that: it takes 85 of us to prosecute crime in this one county. That is sad in and of itself.”
According to Allen, upward of 60,000 criminal charges are brought each year. Upon taking office, she created “specialized prosecution units,” each of which can focus on a particular category of crime and thus develop expertise.
According to Allen, her office prosecuted 1115 cases of child abuse, last year. “That’s what’s reported,” she said. “Who knows how much goes unreported?”
When Allen took office, she created a unit to look into the abuse of the elderly. Since then, every district in the state has created an elder abuse unit.
“Elder victims have specialized needs,” she said. Many are in nursing homes, and often they need a wide range of assistance, including getting to court. According to Allen, her office prosecuted 1209 cases of elder abuse last year.
Allen went on to talk about domestic violence. According to her, domestic violence yields the “highest number of stand-alone warrants” issued. “Domestic violence, during the pandemic, we had 1700 cases,” said Allen.
Second on the stand-alone crime list is DUI, according to Allen. Last year there were 1064 cases. The nature of DUI cases has changed considerably Allen said.
“DUIs have changed drastically since I’ve been in office,” Allen said. “Used to, DUIs happened when people were drinking, late at night, leaving the bars. Our DUIs are now all over this county, all different times of day,” she said. “And most involve drugs.”
Allen even said there have been numerous DUIs on parents dropping off their children in the school line in the morning, to the groan of the crowd.
Concerning drug use, Allen said a big change came around 2016, when Fentanyl became the preferred drug instead of pills.
Following Allen was Knox Co. Law Director David Buuck. Buuck explained that his office’s primary responsibility was handling civil lawsuits. The 10 lawyers the office employs mostly defend lawsuits against the school board, the sheriff’s department, and other county employees.
The most salient issue currently, said Buuck, is mask mandates and the school board. “Unfortunately I can’t comment on that because federal rules require that I, as an attorney of record, cannot comment.”
Susan Richardson Williams, whose resumes in both the public and private arenas could easily fill this story, followed Buuck. She spoke widely on things that affect Republicans, from Knoxville’s City Council, to mask mandates, to retaking the U.S. House next year, to whether Donald Trump will run again in three years.
“We’ve got admitted Democrat socialists on our city council,” Williams said. According to her, a grassroots movement known as Scruffy City-PAC has taken hold to try to make the council less liberal. There will be some viable candidates, Williams said, though she thinks it will take time. “I’m not terribly optimistic, but it’s a beginning,” she said.
Williams told the crowd that they should be concerned about liberalism spreading not only to the city council, but to the county, and other cities around the South. “The Democratic Socialists have targeted cities in the South like Knoxville, and Jackson, Mississippi, and midsize cities like that to begin to make their way to turning them to Democrat Socialists.”
On mask mandates, Williams acknowledged the divisiveness of the issue and that she understood both sides. “Who in God’s name ever thought that wearing a mask would become so political?” she asked. “It’s been really interesting to me to watch this thing move in political circles rather than in science or health circles,” she said.
Williams lamented that the Republican Party has become so divided over social issues. In earlier times, Williams said, Republicans were relatively united on smaller government, low taxes and strong foreign policy.
“Somewhere along the way, social issues have divided our party dramatically,” she said. When asked which social issue she thought was most divisive for Republicans, she said abortion and LGBTQ concerns.
The next meeting is Nov. 4.