By BEN TINSLEY
The growing crime rate in Live Oak and McMullen Counties—directly related to the economy-boosted population increase has prompted Bee County District Attorney Jose Aliseda to hire a new veteran assistant district attorney who can specialize in prosecuting crimes in those specific areas.
Attorney Jon West, 45, of Refugio, was brought on board roughly two weeks ago.
West’s appointment to the job marks the first time anyone has been specifically assigned exclusively to Live Oak and McMullen Counties, the DA said. Previously, it was an area covered by Bee County’s three prosecutors.
Although West is still getting up to speed on forfeiture and child protection cases and ironing out office issues such as the fax, copier and printer, he said he’s keenly aware of his job mission.
“The object is to make the community safe and let everyone know we’re here to fight for them—protect one person by protecting everybody,” West said this week.
The district attorney said the jump start the oil and gas industry gave the local economy has increased the population in terms of both law-abiding and non-law abiding citizens.
“People follow the money, and it is both a blessing and a curse,” DA Aliseda said. “Some people have no sense of community and no affinity to Live Oak and McMullen—no need to respect their neighbors.”
There are a lot of child abuse cases waiting to be tried in these areas, as well as violent crimes such as the Three Rivers hotel stabbing homicide in October of last year. Much of it is directly related to the oil and gas population increase, Aliseda said.
“I came to the commissioners courts in the middle of last year and told them the gas and oil activity was increasing our dockets in McMullen exponentially by 30 percent,” the DA said. “Getting an assistant ADA in Live Oak and McMullen was a public safety issue that would be appreciated by their respective law enforcement agencies, who would have someone closer to go to for search warrants and to discuss their cases.”
Aliseda said the respective commissioners courts in Live Oak and McMullen are to be congratulated for having the vision to help fund the new ADA. Each county will pay 30 percent of West’s roughly $70,000 salary, with the remainder covered by the DA’s office.
“Kudos to these commissioners courts for forward thinking,” the DA said.
Live Oak County Judge Jim Huff recently expressed much enthusiasm about West’s hiring.
“It should really help,” the judge said.
West has been married to his wife, Sandra, for five years and has a 2-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son.
He said he will office at the Live Oak Justice Center and travel to McMullen a few times a week, as his work load dictates. He reports directly to Deborah Branch, first assistant district attorney at Bee County DA’s office.
A 1992 law school graduate from St. Mary’s in San Antonio, West has worked as a felony prosecutor since 1992.
His career highlights include working for the 229th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and a stint as first assistant district attorney for the Kleberg and Kenedy County District Attorney’s office in Kingsville, directly before coming here.
West ventured out on his own as a personal injury attorney for a couple of years but eventually returned to prosecuting.
He is exactly the type of assistant district attorney needed for the job, the DA said.
“What we wanted and needed was an experienced prosecutor—not a rookie,” Aliseda said. “It’s only been a few weeks, but I’m already starting to see an improvement.”