New chief prosecutor: human trafficking, drugs potential 2013 pr - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

New chief prosecutor: human trafficking, drugs potential 2013 problems

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Commonwealth's Attorney Thomas Wine was on his first day on the job when WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Eric Flack spoke with him. Commonwealth's Attorney Thomas Wine was on his first day on the job when WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Eric Flack spoke with him.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Could human trafficking be the next crime wave to hit Louisville Metro? That's the worry of Jefferson County's new Commonwealth's Attorney. On his first day on the job, Thomas Wine talked about that and other threats to public safety in 2013.

The prescription drug and heroin problems are growing in Louisville Metro. Law enforcement say addicts who can't find pills increasingly turn back to the potentially lethal narcotic heroin which once was considered nearly eradicated by police.

But there's another big city problem the new Commonwealth's Attorney expects to see more and more of in Jefferson County, "and that's with human trafficking," said Wine, a former judge. "It's very unfortunate that young girls are being used as a commodity, and that becomes another issue of territory. And we're going to see a lot more issues of people and violence and trying to protect their territory."

Meanwhile, Wine is trying to protect his own territory. The state handed down a five-percent budget cut to Commonwealth's Attorney's offices statewide. In Jefferson County, that's a loss of $180,000. Wine said that's five fewer prosecutors in the courtroom putting away rapists, murderers and drug traffickers.

To make up for the loss, prosecutors left behind will have to increase their hours and case loads.

"The prosecutors we have will work harder, and they are committed to doing that," Wine said.

Wine said he's committed to maintaining public confidence in the Commonwealth's Attorney's office even in times of turmoil like police shootings. Wine's predecessor, Dave Stengel, was criticized for not turning over lethal force investigations to the Attorney General's office. Activist groups complained the close working relationship between the Commonwealth's Attorney's office and the police makes it hard to get fair investigations.

"I still think the public has to be confident that we are going to do the very best job we can in house," Wine said, "and I think those prosecutions have to start here."

Recruiting and retaining the best prosecutors will also be a challenge in 2013. Wine said the starting salary for a prosecutor in the Commonwealth's Attorney's office is $38,000. Wine said right now that is offset somewhat by a shortage of good private sector jobs, meaning there are a lot of talented attorneys looking for work at any salary.

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