Guilford County district attorney talks progress, new programs after first year on the job

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Guilford County’s district attorney has been on the job for a little more than a year.

When Avery Crump was elected back in 2018, she became the first woman and the first African American to lead the community in this role.

She says getting to this point was all about hard work, and that has not slowed down over the last year.

District Attorney Avery Crump has been working hard in a number of areas since she took over last year.  Not only has she worked to put more violent offenders behind bars, but she also put in efforts to reduce the number of people struggling in the court system because of their financial situation and worked to reduce the number of open cases.

For example, when she took over, there were 6,012 pending Superior Court Criminal Cases. Another 6,965 were filed, but at the end of the year her office had disposed of 7,594 cases.

There were 923 misdemeanors pending, another 1,461 filed, and in the year, her office disposed of 1,452.

There were 58,262 motor vehicle offenses pending, 40,197 filed, and the District Attorney’s Office disposed of 79,881. 

She says closing those cases benefits the entire community and explains why a high number of open cases can be a problem.

“It’s not good for the system because you always talk about the system getting clogged up. It’s also not good for the defendants who have to keep coming to court, losing their jobs. It’s not good for victims who have to wait extra long to have their day in court. So let’s look at some of these old cases and let’s move these old cases,” Crump said.

Her plans and her efforts are based on her experience, 11 years as an assistant district attorney, another nine as a district court judge in Guilford County.

“Well, I came in with a vision, a vision of making some changes here in Guilford County. A vision of adding some programs that I thought would help the citizens of Guilford County. A vision of helping those get their driver’s license back. And I’ve been able to accomplish all of those things,” she said.

She says her time as a judge showed her some of the changes people in the community could benefit from.

“And as a judge, I was always disheartened when you had to sentence someone who was placed on a program but they couldn’t complete it because they didn’t have the money to pay,” the district attorney said.

She was part of an effort to eliminate secured bonds for nonviolent misdemeanor offenders along with the public defender’s office and local judges.

“That vision was to help some of our low-income communities which is one of the reasons I wanted to bring these programs. My vision was to make sure that we had justice, we had equity, we had fairness for everyone,” she said.

The district attorney has also put in efforts to create driver’s license restoration clinics in both Greensboro and High Point. These help people who have had a suspended license for five years because of unpaid traffic tickets or court costs. It does not apply to DWI cases. 

“Sometimes you know that someone can’t always pay that and they need a license to pick up their children from school, to drive to work, to drive to doctor’s appointments. So they’re not going to stop driving and so it can balloon into this huge mass debt,” she said.

She says these programs have been successful, and now has plans to expand it to help even more people.

“Now we’re moving on to something even bigger. It’s now the mass debt because Guilford County has over 46,000 cases where people are not able to get their driver’s license. We’re one of the highest numbers in the state. We’re now working on trying to erase some of this debt,” Crump said.

She’s working on other efforts too, like for teenagers. She says on her first day she started working on a misdemeanor nonviolent prosecution program for 16- and 17-year-olds. Now that the Raise the Age law is in place, she plans to have the program help 18- and 19-year-olds. 

“Children, young people, make mistakes. It happens. And so with this program, you’re able to repay your debt to society without actually having a record for something that is a nonviolent offense. We’re talking about trespassing, shoplifting, misdemeanor larceny, just things like marijuana. Things like that where they can keep their record clean, they can get a job or they can go to college and be able to get financial aid,” she said.

Similar programs have been in place before, but Crump has made them free through the District Attorney’s Office. She says these are just some of the changes the community can really benefit from.

“As a female and as a person of color, I think I bring a different perspective. As a mother, I bring a different perspective which is one of the reasons why I wanted some of these programs,” she said.

It’s a perspective she fought to bring to this office.

“Now I knew what I would be up against because we’ve never had a female D.A. before. We’ve never had an African American D.A. before. And you had some people who say, ‘Well, the community’s not going, they’re not going to vote for you because of that.’ I said, ‘Why not? I have a proven record.’ For me, I’m the best person for the job. So why not?” Crump said.

She fought then to get the job, and now that she has it, she hasn’t stopped fighting to serve this community and make a difference.

“We’ve shown, women in general have shown that we can do the job just as well. Just give us a chance,” she said.

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