An Op-Ed from United States Attorney Louis V. Franklin, Sr.
With Americans adjusting their daily lives as we work to contain the Coronavirus pandemic, one thing that has not changed is law enforcement’s commitment to pursuing justice and keeping our communities safe. As the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, I am privileged to work closely with state and local police as well as agents from the FBI, ATF, DEA, United States Marshals Service, and our nation’s other preeminent law enforcement agencies to enforce federal law. Together with my staff of Assistant United States Attorneys and support personnel, we work with these agencies to investigate crimes, arrest those who commit them, and bring those perpetrators to justice in federal court. The job may look different in a pandemic, and it may bring with it an added degree of difficulty, but it hasn’t stopped.
We’ve taken precautions to help do our part to limit the spread of the Coronavirus. Most of my AUSAs are working from home, continuing to advance their cases toward a just end, albeit from a distance. Meetings that were once held in person are held by telephone. Instead of seeing judges on the bench during hearings, we see them on a television screen. Agents have prioritized work that does not require them to personally interact with each other or the public.
But one thing should be absolutely clear, especially to those who would threaten our community or who believe that they can use the Coronavirus as a cover to commit crimes with impunity. We’re still here, and we’re still watching you. Agents will still investigate you. U.S. Marshals will still pursue and arrest you. AUSAs will still prosecute you, and federal judges will still send you to prison if you break the law.
To do that job, we need your help.
There can be a tendency, especially when a crime is committed, for witnesses to do everything they can to avoid being involved or to tell themselves that someone else will take care of the problem. But in these trying times, we need everyone to do their part. If you see a crime committed, report it. If you have information about a crime that has already happened, call our offices and let us know.
And be vigilant in protecting yourselves, especially against fraud. Con artists have never seen a crisis they couldn’t find a way to exploit. Already, we’ve heard reports of fraudsters peddling fake Coronavirus vaccines, hawking counterfeit protective gear, and offering bogus financial schemes related to the passage of Congress’s recent relief legislation. If you receive a phone call or an email offering a product or service during this crisis that seems too good to be true or that you believe is illegal, call our office or the office of the Alabama Attorney General. We are here to serve you. You can also contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of course, those who would take advantage of this crisis are in the minority. What we’ve seen far more across our community and this state are people coming together to help one another. That’s what Americans have always done when we’ve met a challenge, and we haven’t found one yet that we can’t overcome together. The Coronavirus will be no different.