Anyone who is good at their job knows that experience matters in big and small ways. Elizabeth Lamin has prosecutorial trial experience– an essential qualification that our community deserves to have in our next County Attorney. Below, we talk about the ways Elizabeth’s frontline experience shapes her approach to fighting crime in Dakota County.
Advocating for Aging Residents
My favorite part of being on the campaign trail is the face-to-face time I get with the voters. I love to hear about the hopes my neighbors have for the future, and identify ways that, in my role as County Attorney, I will be able to make things better for them. Recently, my conversations have focused a lot on something that impacts people of all races, income levels, and zip codes: financial crimes against our seniors. Nowadays, people are living longer and staying in their homes longer. Often as we age we may become isolated from family. All of this has resulted in elderly people becoming more vulnerable than ever to consumer fraud and theft by swindle.
We can make elder abuse easier to investigate– with the right leadership.
The unfortunate truth is that financial scams against the elderly are notoriously under-investigated. In some cases this is because the victim is somewhat compromised with dementia, or because the criminal activity happens anonymously online. But very often, law enforcement have a difficult time looking into these crimes because they involve family members exploiting a loved one. Similar to how our society viewed domestic violence thirty years ago, familial exploitation of an elderly person is often viewed as an internal family matter. But theft against a loved one is a crime just like domestic violence, and criminal actors must be investigated and held accountable.
I will push for training and help obtain funding for dedicated officers who will handle financial exploitation cases.
Our elders rely on law enforcement to protect them from theft, and they deserve to live without fear for their financial wellbeing. When I’m elected, I will work with police departments to ensure that officers dedicated to this type of crime know how to navigate the often complicated waters of financial exploitation crimes against seniors. I will also work to change the culture of our law enforcement agencies, to help people better understand that we can and must investigate and prosecute these crimes as we would a domestic violence case.
I will advocate for the creation of a local, centralized place for consumers to report incidents where they have been victimized.
Currently, all reports of potential theft or swindling are reported to the Attorney General’s office, which is often overwhelmed. We can better tackle this problem here in Dakota County by creating a central place for our neighbors to report their suspicions of criminal financial activity. By localizing our reporting process, law enforcement will be better able to identify patterns, identify the people involved, and prosecute in more collaborative and effective ways.
We owe it to our elders to protect them from the myriad ways that criminals try to scam them out of their money. Let’s put a stop to the scammers and swindlers who are taking advantage of our elderly loved ones.
A Leader in Criminal Justice Reform
Elizabeth has credibility within and outside the criminal justice system because of her first hand experience working with battered women, victims of gun violence, victims of sexual assault. These are real people and Elizabeth has spent years working with them to ensure they get justice. This is what has brought her to run for office. Her priorities are based on years of experience within the system seeing what does and does not work and not political pressures.
With decades of experience in a County Attorney’s office, Elizabeth is equipped to effectively lead in ways that our community needs now because experience matters.
Charging Sensitive Cases – one essential role of the County Attorney is to make judgment calls on whether to bring charges and how to communicate with law enforcement and the community. The County Attorney is deeply involved in these decisions and needs to get them right to sustain credibility. Elizabeth has credibility by charging and trying many high-profile cases and has the experience to make the right judgment calls in these difficult situations.
Treatment Courts – County Attorneys are gatekeepers to holistically addressing substance abuse, mental health and veterans’ issues. Elizabeth will put in place best practices to determine which cases to send to treatment courts, guiding staff to use Dakota County resources effectively and efficiently. Elizabeth has been doing this for years and commits to making our existing drug court infrastructure more robust.
Cross-Disciplinary Teams – Experience matters for Dakota County when leading multi-agency groups to reduce car theft, gun violence, youth crimes, and sex trafficking. Elizabeth leads a taskforce to address youth auto theft and carjackings. Many of the problems facing our community have roots that are interwoven into deep societal issues. To effectively tackle these crimes we need a County Attorney who works on these issues and builds credibility within the criminal justice system and with community partners.
Frontline trial experience on behalf of the public translates into a deeper understanding of how cases come into the system and how to bring justice and safety for our community. An absence of experience with the prosecution of cases makes it difficult to understand the dynamics of a County Attorney’s work, the consequences of crucial legal and trial judgment calls, and the best use of resources. Like a school principal who has never taught in the classroom will not understand the needs of students, teachers and families – a County Attorney who has never worked within the criminal justice system is ill-equipped for the job.
Elizabeth has Experience and it Matters for Dakota County.
Standing Up for Veterans
As a political refugee from the former Soviet Union, I have a special appreciation for the freedoms that our country affords us and the men and women who protect those freedoms in the armed forces. Too often, veterans come home from their tours of duty experiencing a myriad of problems related to their service, including struggles with substance abuse and mental health problems, and trouble finding stable housing and employment. It is an unfortunate reality that our country often fails to provide our heroes with the support they need to transition back into civilian life.
Veterans Court ensures that people get the help they need.
I was the first candidate in the race for Dakota County Attorney to call for the establishment of our first Veterans Court, a type of treatment court that is designed to recognize that the crimes committed by veterans are often caused by the collateral consequences of their military service. It is a holistic and individualized approach to addressing crime in our community that truly gets at the root of the problem while delivering justice for victims, holding offenders accountable while at the same time providing them a way to reclaim their lives.
Dakota County did not have a Veterans Court until I began making it a campaign issue in 2021, even though these courts have been around for years. Washington County began their Veterans Court in 2011, Anoka County in 2012, Ramsey County in 2013, and Carver County in 2014. The Dakota County Attorney did nothing until the end of 2021.
We can help veterans in need change their lives for the better.
In my 16 years as a prosecutor I have met innumerable veterans who have found themselves charged with a crime, but one man stands out in my memory. After his service he began struggling with PTSD and substance abuse and was caught in the revolving door of our criminal justice system. His Veterans Court coordination team was able to get him connected to several VA benefits that he was entitled to but not receiving. They helped him find permanent housing; assisted him with finding a job as an auto mechanic; helped him set up regular counseling through the VA; and guided him through the process of receiving much needed medication. Veterans Court transformed his life– he reconnected with his children, became a mentor for others who were struggling, and paid restitution for the crimes he committed.
Dakota County isn’t doing enough to serve our veteran neighbors.
After my public calls for Dakota County to establish its first Veterans Court, a committee was established to address the issue. Rather than implement our own program, the committee chose instead to participate in Carver County’s Veterans Court program– requiring veterans who are already struggling to drive two counties away for weekly mandatory court appearances. In addition to the distance, the coordination between counties makes it much harder for veterans to access the services they need and utilize the benefits they have earned. Finally, a big component of Veteran’s Court is getting paired with a mentor who is also a veteran. Having this type of social support is a critical aspect of the program and many mentors attend court with their mentees. However, the prospect of having to drive so far means that many mentors will probably decline to attend court.
As of the beginning of this year, only 3 Dakota residents have enrolled in Carver’s Veterans Court, despite our county being home to 21,000 veterans. The numbers are clear: we need a real solution to this problem. When I’m elected, I will spearhead the effort to establish a Veterans Court right here in Dakota County to serve our neighbors in need.
Fighting Auto Theft
Recently, Fox 9 published a story detailing the skyrocketing rate of thefts of certain vehicles: according to the story, Kia thefts are up 1,300% and thefts of Hyundais are up 600%. So, what’s causing this increase in car thefts? What we know is that a slew of Tik Tok videos have exposed weaknesses in these cars’ security systems and have made many families the targets of crimes of opportunity. Like many of you, my family and I rely on our vehicles to go about our daily lives. The theft of one of our vehicles would not only be a huge interruption to our lives functionally and financially, it would destroy the sense of security that my partner and I have worked so hard to build for our children.
I know how to prevent auto thefts– and have experience doing just that.
One of my roles is Director of Violence Intervention and Community Partnership, where I manage Ramsey County’s youth auto theft intervention project. I work collaboratively with police to help them investigate and prosecute motor vehicle thefts. But I also work with community outreach workers to identify at-risk youth and reach out to their families to deter and reduce auto thefts.
Auto thefts change over time, we need a dynamic and multipronged approach.
Tackling auto theft is like playing legal whack-a-mole: we have to be methodical, look at the data and trends to see where and how vehicles are being stolen, and adjust our strategies accordingly. For example, in 2012 we saw a huge increase in tow truck drivers stealing older vehicles and selling them for scrap. Seeing this trend, I worked with police, prosecuted numerous offenders, and obtained dozens of convictions for hundreds of stolen vehicles. But I didn’t stop there– after seeing huge gaps in our statutes, I worked with police, the commerce department, and other government agencies to make it harder for scrap yards to make a profit off the very vehicles these offenders were stealing.
Dakota County needs to do more to protect against auto thefts.
The truth is, Dakota County is not currently taking advantage of a crucial program designed to assist local jurisdictions in prosecuting car thefts. Many counties– such as Washington, Anoka, Ramsey, and Hennepin– already participate in the program that is run through our state’s Department of Commerce, which funds dedicated prosecutors focused on auto theft. With this type of crime seeing such a massive spike in numbers in 2022, we should be utilizing every resource available to us to protect families in Dakota county. When I’m elected County Attorney, I will make sure we are doing just that.
Together, we can address this growing problem of car thefts.
Combating Catalytic Converter Theft
In recent years, Dakota County has become the epicenter of a surging crime wave: catalytic converter theft. The metro area has seen a hundred-fold increase in converter thefts since 2018, with Eagan and West St. Paul at the top of the list of hardest-hit communities. While the policy response from the Minnesota legislature has been swift, there is more still to do. New, stricter measures are needed to crack down on thieves and the scrap dealers that enable them. When I’m elected Dakota County Attorney, stopping catalytic converter theft will be one of my top priorities.
I will enforce our current laws to hold scrap yards that purchase stolen converters accountable.
In 2013, I helped draft a new law that addressed scrap yards purchasing stolen vehicles. Scrap yards are required to request identification and proof of ownership for any cars. This successful law formed the basis for Minnesota’s approach to catalytic converter thefts. But this law is not always enforced. As County Attorney, I will create a task force of police and regulatory agencies that will work to crack down on businesses who don’t follow the law and look the other way.
I will take a collaborative, multi-jurisdiction approach to addressing repeat offenders.
We must work across police departments and counties to figure out the driving force behind these crimes– and stamp it out. Because the theft and sale of converters can occur across county lines. Often, catalytic converter thieves are looking to make a quick buck in order to support an ongoing drug habit. When this is the case, we need to get the offenders off the streets and into Drug Court to utilize best practices for interrupting the cycle of substance abuse and criminal activity.
I will make crime prevention and early intervention a top priority.
Our next County Attorney must be committed to working with law enforcement, government agencies, and community outreach programs to stop the cycle of criminal activity. When I’m elected, I will work as a collaborative team member with our school districts, local municipalities, and police departments to bolster mentorship programs and to address underlying problems such as untreated mental illness, chemical dependency, and lack of educational opportunities.
As my partner and I approach a new era of our life as parents (our 15-year-old daughter is preparing to take her driver’s test), we find ourselves in the same position as many of you: worried! Not about the freedom that a driver’s license will afford her, or her ability to navigate the roads safely; we’re concerned about the ever-growing problem that communities across the state of Minnesota are facing: carjacking, a serious crime that traumatizes not only the victim but an entire community. A person’s motor vehicle has always been a safe space for so many of us and now many people are too scared to drive to the store or into the cities.
I have been tasked in my current role with working specifically to stop carjackings– and it’s working: we have seen a reduction in carjackings in 2022 since 2021. Below are two parts of my plan to continue this success as your next County Attorney.
I will coordinate a multi-agency, multi-jurisdiction effort to keep carjackers off the streets.
The fact is that our county has not prosecuted a single case against carjackers, yet carjacking affects Dakota County residents more and more everyday. In a carjacking case that I prosecuted the carjacking took place in Ramsey County, the perpetrator used a stolen credit card in another county, and the car was recovered several hours later right here in Dakota County. Carjacking is a multi-jurisdiction crime that is often committed among a string of other crimes. We need a coordinated and collaborative response that crosses counties, police departments, and government agencies. Law enforcement must be given the tools to quickly make the connection to crimes in other jurisdictions. We must demand that courts set high bail for a person who has committed what appears to be lower-level crime in one community– such as the use of a stolen credit card– when they are also suspected of carjacking in another.
I will build strong cases against anyone who perpetrates carjacking, and work to reduce repeat offenses.
In my current role, I have learned how difficult it can be to find the people responsible for these crimes. We know that a relatively small number of people are the perpetrators, and money or substance abuse don’t appear to be the primary motivations. What we need in order to address this on a larger scale is a focused deterrent response to find the perpetrators, arrest them, and ensure high bail in order to keep them off the streets. Once they’re in the system, we then need to work to address the underlying issues driving their offenses– carjacking is a traumatizing crime often committed by a person with a lifetime of trauma themselves.
Defending Reproductive Justice
As one of the only states in the Midwest where abortion is accessible, we Minnesotans have an important duty to protect our fundamental right to reproductive healthcare. I am, and have always been, a proud defender of a person’s right to seek an abortion. In my role as your next County Attorney, I will make protecting abortion access a top priority. Here’s how:
I will never prosecute a person for seeking an abortion– ever.
Across the nation, we are seeing states where abortion has been outlawed work overtime to prosecute women for seeking the care they need. As the top law enforcement official in our community, our County Attorney has the final determination in which crimes are prosecuted, and it is County Attorneys who are filing charges against people for seeking and performing abortions. When I’m elected, not only will I never prosecute a person for seeking or participating in an abortion, I will refuse to comply with any request from another jurisdiction that seeks to extradite a person to face abortion-related charges.
I will advocate against existing laws in our state that restrict our reproductive freedom.
Recently, Ramsey County District Judge Thomas Gilligan ruled that several current abortion-related laws in Minnesta were unconstitutional. The laws require physicians to provide inaccurate and medically unnecessary information to abortion patients– such as a claim that abortions are tied to an increase in risk for cancer (something that has been proven to be untrue)– in an attempt to dissuade the patient from going through with the procedure. While Judge Gilligan’s rule is an important step toward protecting our reproductive freedom, there is still more to do. If Judge Gilligan’s ruling were to be overturned, we could face yet more restrictions on abortion in Minnesota. When I’m elected, I will work with our state legislators to remove these unconstitutional and harmful laws from our books.
Protecting Victims of Domestic Abuse
When I was 23 years old, I worked as a victim advocate for a battered women’s organization in southern Minnesota. My job was to support victims of domestic violence through the often confusing court process; helping them obtain orders for protection and explaining what they could expect from the criminal justice system.
One woman in particular stands out in my memory. Her husband would beat her, then promise her it would never happen again. She kept believing him in part because she was dependent upon him for housing and finances. That finally changed when he threw her down the stairs.
We looked through the photos of the bruises he left on her. We spoke about the messages she was receiving from his extended family, telling her that she must be lying or that she needs to forgive him and return home. We spoke of how scared she was of him and of this cycle she found herself within. She thanked me for listening and helping her.
Meeting women like her is what inspired me to go to law school. I saw the incredible impact that prosecutors have when they care about the work and are able to do it well. I saw the exasperation from victims when a prosecutor didn’t understand enough to do a good job. These cases involved real people everyday and I wanted to help more than I was already.
These cases matter too much to be handled by a political figurehead who leaves the real work to others, or for our County Attorney’s office to be used as a stepping stone for higher office.
Approximately one in four women in the U.S. has experienced physical violence, sexual violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in her lifetime. In Minnesota from 2015 to 2019, there were 39 women fatally shot by their intimate partner. Approximately 53% of women killed in domestic violence incidents were killed with a gun. Given this, it is no surprise that domestic violence accounts for almost 15% of all reported violent crimes. In fact, after law school, my very first jury trial was prosecuting a domestic violence case. These cases matter, and our County Attorney sets the policy and builds relationships with law enforcement and advocacy organizations, all of which are necessary for success.
From my years of experience, I know that the prosecution of domestic violence cases must manage the risk to the victim’s safety and well-being.
When I’m elected, I will look at creating a more coordinated community response to domestic violence to more effectively enhance the accountability of individuals convicted of domestic violence, reduce recidivism, and promote victim safety and well-being. I won’t have to rely on secondhand explanations on how to prosecute domestic violence. There is no need for me to play catch up. I have my experience and the memories of listening to countless victims depending on my 23-year-old self advocating for them.
As Dakota County Attorney, I will bring those memories and my experience to work towards making Dakota County a leader in ending the cycles of violence and keeping victims safe.
Dealing with Drug Addiction
Drug addiction is an insidious disease that alters a person; it rips apart families and is often the underlying reason that a person commits property crimes such as burglaries and catalytic converter thefts. In my 16 years of experience as a prosecutor, I have learned the importance of holding people accountable for their actions. But I have also learned that in addition to punishing people for the crimes they commit, we need to also address their underlying addiction. Otherwise, we do nothing to stop the revolving door of crime and punishment; it does not mend families; and it does not make us safer.
Dakota County is Behind the Times.
Dakota County vastly under-utilizes proven, effective programs like drug court to treat substance abuse and addiction. Out of 654 drug cases brought in 2020, Dakota sent only 12 to Drug Court.
In fact, between 2017 and 2020, only 2% of drug-related cases in Dakota County ended up in Drug Court. As a result, over 14 years only an average of 8 individuals per year have completed Drug Court in Dakota County.
What is Drug Court?
Drug Court is a highly studied and rigorous approach to handling cases where substance abuse is a factor in the crimes that were committed. Whereas our traditional criminal justice system is adversarial, Drug Court takes a collaborative approach where the prosecutor, defense attorney, and judge work alongside a probation officer, a medical professional, and a social worker to find the best plan to address the person’s addiction to drugs and/or alcohol.
Participants in Drug Court are given specific tasks and treatment goals that are reviewed every week in court. The intense supervision is only diminished when they have achieved goals of treatment, employment, stable housing, and progress in paying restitution. Drug Court also ensures continuous sobriety by requiring random observed drug tests on a weekly basis initially. Any violation of the plan can be addressed immediately, as opposed to filing a probation violation and waiting for a court date. The value of immediate consequences has a positive effect on future behavior.
Drug Court is not a get out of jail card, nor is it for big time drug dealers. The combination of supervision, accountability, and support over a prolonged period gives people the tools and support to demonstrate progress. It provides hope for them and their families.
Does Drug Court Actually Work?
Drug Court has been around for 30 years and has been proven to reduce recidivism when best practices are followed. In Minnesota, a 2014 study showed a 20% reduction in new charges and arrests for Drug Court graduates – a statistic I’ve seen personally play out in my current role. A few years ago, I prosecuted a case against a career burglar who would break into garages and steal items in order to feed his meth addiction. I pushed to get him into Drug Court and watched as the man completely transformed his life. He stopped burglarizing garages. Over time he met someone, became captain of the Drug Court softball team, and repaid restitution for harm he had caused.
We must do more, and better, for our community by implementing evidence-based programs like this one. When I’m elected to the Dakota County Attorney’s Office, one of my top priorities will be to put an end to the way our county currently under-utilizes proven, effective programs and instead I will focus on getting people the help they need.
Tackling Gun Violence
In 2021, Minnesota saw its highest rate of murders in almost 30 years. Of the 185 homicides committed that year, 75% were committed with a gun. Make no mistake: we have a gun violence problem here in Minnesota, and Dakota County is no exception. In my 16 years as a frontline prosecutor, I have handled all levels of gun-related crimes: from felon in illegal possession of a firearm; all levels of assaults; and all levels of murder including first degree premeditated murder. I know the trauma that gun violence inflicts on victims, families, and entire communities, and I’m committed to doing something about it.
We need a leader who understands this problem through and through.
It’s easy for any politician to say that they’ll tackle the problem of gun violence. But you have to understand the dynamics of gun violence. Often it is perpetuated by a small group of people, who are already known to law enforcement. We need to work to get these people off the streets and kept in jail, not released immediately back into the community. We don’t need another politician’s empty promises; we need someone who’s been on the frontlines of the gun violence epidemic. As an Assistant County Attorney, I have been the primary prosecutor for gun crimes including shootings and homicides in Ramsey County for more than seven years. I have worked to get justice for hundreds of victims of gun violence and their families.
I will implement programs in Dakota County that are proven to reduce gun violence.
This year, Congress passed the Safer Communities Act of 2022. This law closes several loopholes in our current gun laws, including prohibiting partners who have committed domestic violence from obtaining a firearm, increasing penalties for illegally purchasing firearms on behalf of felons, and expanding background checks for people under the age of 21. The law also increases funding for programs aimed at reducing gun violence. We need a County Attorney who knows how to put this money to good use. In my current role, I’m helping lead one such program: an evidence-based focused deterrence effort, with law enforcement and community partners engaging with groups involved in gun violence. This program has a proven track record of success, and it’s this experience and firsthand knowledge that I’ll bring with me to the Dakota County Attorney’s office.
Our gun violence problem is too serious to hand over to a political figurehead with empty promises. I’m not here to pay you lip service– I’m here to deliver results.
Keep up with the campaign.