Attorney General Mike DeWine visits Bay High
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine described the work done by his office and the path he traveled in his political career when he visited Bay High School students on Thursday, March 5. Then he encouraged the students to become involved in politics on any number of levels.
DeWine provided many examples of how the Office of the Ohio Attorney General operates and areas of its responsibilities. His experience as a prosecutor laid the foundation for the investigative knowledge he brings to the job. One of his first priorities in taking office was to make the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), the state crime lab, faster and more efficient. That improvement, along with a new law that requires collection of DNA at all felony arrests, resulted in many cold cases, such as rapes, being solved.
“Ohio is a local control state,” said DeWine. “We have 88 counties, which means 88 county prosecutors, 88 sheriff offices, etc. Our office must be invited to participate in an investigation.” He described how his office was asked to handle an undercover investigation in Warren, which ultimately led to closure of a chain of massage parlors where Korean women worked as prostitutes. The closures raised awareness of human trafficking.
“Many people don’t understand what human trafficking means," said DeWine. “I describe it as compelling another person against their will to do something – sex, work, it can take many forms. It’s a tough crime to investigate, but often we’ll see signs, like we did in the Warren case. Sleeping bags in the establishment is a sign. Seeing that the victims are always escorted when they go to the mall or wherever is another. The people who ran the Warren operation kept the women’s passports.”
DeWine also noted that his office investigates all types of fraud, and while there have always been people who are crooks and con artists around, they now have a “long arm” to reach victims through the internet. He described the IRS scam going around, in which elderly victims are targeted and frightened into making immediate wire transfers, which they can do at a drug store, to pay alleged back taxes. He also said Craig’s List is often used by scammers to sell concert and sporting event tickets, and even puppies, to customers who pay but then don’t receive the advertised items. His office also investigates cases of public corruption, such as the Athens County sheriff who was recently convicted of theft in office.
When questioned by a student as to the best ways for an 18-year-old to get involved, DeWine encouraged all the students to consider a number of choices.
“Everyone has a certain number of ‘arrows' to use, and each citizen must decide how much influence they want to have.”
He said that the first thing citizens can do is show up to vote, and noted that the 18-year-old age group is one of the lowest in terms of voting frequency. “After voting,” he said, “you can volunteer to work on a political campaign. From the local school board to a state legislator, all those campaigns look for volunteers.”
He suggested that young people can also write letters and send emails to elected officials. But he also encouraged students to think about running for office themselves. “Think about running for a local position, for school board, for example. What could be more important than helping to decide about the education of our children?” he asked.
DeWine said he was inspired about politics as a high school student when John Kennedy and Richard Nixon ran for president in 1960. He likened political campaigns to sports, with the competition and a clear winner.
“But it’s not about having someone call you ‘Senator’ or whatever,” he said. “It’s not about the position. The winner gets to govern, gets to make decisions and see ideas put into effect.”
Students respond to DeWine visit:
Sophomore Megan Guinter: “I was inspired when he said winning a political office was not about the position but about the power and influence to make your ideas happen. In high school, you tend to have ideas but think that you’re just one person in a crowd, and it’s hard to get lots of people to follow you.”
Junior Caroline Eifert: “I was really interested in the wide swath of things he does, from the human trafficking problem to DNA processing of rape kits. And it is interesting to me to find how someone in such a high position got to that point, that he married his high school sweetheart, that he has eight children, that he started out with a degree in education from Miami and at one time wanted to be a teacher.”
Senior Katherine Kerka: “It’s always nice to interact with our political leaders and hear what they actually do each day. So many times we don’t know the details of their jobs.”
Senior Jack Rodman: “I really enjoyed hearing about specific cases he worked on and elaborated on for us. I always wonder if someone in such a high position is just about oversight or if he gets involved in all the details of the office.”
Senior Katie Koomar: “It is really cool to see how what we are learning about in government class actually plays out, as opposed to just hearing about it in school. I liked hearing about real examples and actual evidence of their work, like the work with DNA. Hearing the specifics is the most interesting.”
Director of Communications for the Bay Village City School District