Andrew H. Warren explains alternative solutions for offenders
State Attorney Andrew H. Warren, of the 13th Judicial Circuit, offered insight into his effort to deter crime within Hillsborough County, at Plant City’s Arthur Boring Civic Center.
Held last Thursday, it was the most recent networking luncheon hosted by The Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce.
Inside the auditorium, representatives of multiple organizations were at their stands, ready to offer the public information about their services.
The board of directors for the Chamber of Commerce were among those present.
After being given an introduction, Warren took to the stage as the keynote speaker.
He was first elected to Florida’s 13th Judicial Circuit in November 2016. Now in his second term as the Tampa-based state attorney, Warren leads a staff of 300 people- with approximately 130 of whom are prosecutors.
His team has been focused on providing a safe environment for the Tampa Bay area- including Plant City.
“It is a mission of public safety, of fairness and of justice,” explained Warren. “When I got elected, I talked to my office about the need not to prosecute people just for the sake of prosecuting, but as a problem to be solved.”
With the help of law enforcement entities like the sheriff’s office, he established a comprehensive civil citation program.
It was designed to grant leniency toward first time offenders, juveniles, and those suffering from substance abuse and mental illness.
It was also a tactic to put a handle on both domestic and gun violence.
Warren noted that driving with a suspended license is the most common offense in Florida, yet shouldn’t come with a harsh penalty because it makes no sense.
He went on to explain that a negative chain reaction would result:
1. Being unable to afford to pay a fine then leads to suspension.
2. With suspension, it becomes a challenge to get to work.
3. When that individual can’t get to work, they can’t keep up with their expenses.
And this would just be a waste of taxpayers’ dollars, he stated.
However, it was his beginnings in law enforcement that helped Warren develop a more merciful approach in the judicial system.
After leaving his native Gainesville, he went on to study economics and political science at Brandeis University. He then graduated with a law degree at Columbia University.
Afterward, he worked as a clerk at the Federal District Court in San Francisco. Then in New York, he practiced criminal and civil litigation with an international law firm.
This ultimately led him to serve in another high-profile position.
“I had the opportunity to work for the Justice Department shortly out of law school,” said Warren. “It was such an honor to do that- be able to represent my country and court of law.
There he helped combat financial fraud nationwide, and in one instance, prosecuted those involved in a $7 billion Ponzi scheme.
His office then transferred him to Tampa in 2013.
As for why he decided to run for state attorney, he said that, “Every time I got on a plane to go somewhere else, I felt like I was missing the opportunity to give back to the community where my kids were growing up.”
He also noted that he saw cracks within the criminal justice system and wanted a hand in improving it.
He also adopted the concept of a Nobel prize winner that doing what’s right in the short term doesn’t guarantee that it will be the right solution in the long term.
That also means finding a feasible way of dealing with reoccurring crime, especially homicide.
While the crime rate in Hillsborough County has decreased within the last five years, he stated, there has been a rise in murders.
“We usually have about 50 to 60 homicides a year,” said Warren. “We’re up to about 75 countywide. That’s a big increase.”
He referred to statistics which indicate that the rise in murder rates is due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic toll that it has brought has resulted in violence.
However, Warren remains optimistic that by partnering with other law enforcement agencies, crime can decrease.
“I’m so lucky to work in Hillsborough County,” he exclaimed. “This is a fantastic community. We’re not going to solve all the problems, but people are pulling in the right direction and they’re focused on working together and actually making the community better.”