It sounds odd for an office that oversees the prosecution of criminal cases in Howard County, but Ellicott City resident Rich Gibson, a Democrat running for Howard County State's Attorney, said his campaign will focus on community outreach.
"The position at its core is about public service, serving the community for the benefit of others," Gibson said at an campaign announcement held at the Long Reach Village Center on Feb. 27.
"The State's Attorney's office should be as transparent as possible, should be visible and maintain contact with the community. A dialogue with members of the community should be an active and regularly occurring event. Unfortunately, many people do not know what the State's Attorney's office does, they don't understand how its role impacts their lives."
The 37-year-old Gibson, currently an Assistant State's Attorney in Baltimore City, will face off in a primary against incumbent and fellow Democrat Dario Broccolino.
Born in the Bronx, Gibson moved to Maryland to attend Howard University School of Law. After graduating, he began working as an Assistant State's Attorney in Prince George's County, before taking the same job at the office in Baltimore. He moved to Ellicott City five years ago, where he lives with his wife, Carissa, and two daughters.
Gibson said he decided to run because he wanted to bring change to his own community, and that he thinks there has been a lack of community outreach under Broccolino.
"The bottom line is, I feel the current State's Attorney's Office could utilize the community more in a way that would result in reducing crime," Gibson said.
Gibson said understanding the perception of people in different neighborhoods could reduce crime.
"Police respond to objective data. A police officer responds to this location, this crime this time, and this victim and this defendant, but the subject part of crime and criminal analysis comes from the part of the people," Gibson said.
Gibson also said he wants to reduce property crime.
"When you look at Howard County, they have a fair amount, for population size, of property crime," he said.
And Gibson said he wants to take a hard line on domestic and gang violence.
Broccolino, 70, said Gibson's campaign is "a solution in search of a problem."
"We've assembled one of the finest prosecution offices in the area," Broccolino said. "I'm very proud of what we've accomplished, and I trust that will be good enough for the residents of Howard County."
Broccolino said the office attempted an outreach program in the early 2000s to limited success. He added that specific prosecutors have been assigned to work on gangs and domestic violence. In 2011, Broccolino formed a burglary unit to deal with increased property crimes.
Broccolino has served as State's Attorney since 2007, when he was appointed to the post on an interim basis. He was elected to the post in 2010 after running uncontested. Before his appointment in 2007, Broccolino had served as deputy State's Attorney since 1999.
"I'm pretty secure in what we've accomplished and what experience I bring to the table compared to what my opponent will bring," Broccolino said.
Although not as experienced as Broccolino, Gibson wants to apply his 10 years of prosecutorial experience.
"Crime is crime," he said. "Crime in Baltimore City, crime in Prince George's County, crime in Anne Arundel County, it's all caused by the same issues."
Warren Brown, a defense attorney in Baltimore City who knows Gibson through the city's State's Attorney's office, praised his integrity and intellect, and said he's a "battle-tested" trial attorney.
"He has a lot of energy and is young, and has the desire to bring about some good," he said.