Assisant DA will run new prosecution office in Alpharetta

Todd Ashley's job is to make service more direct, personal in north Fulton

With so many criminal cases screaming for attention, it can be tough for small-town police departments to get the ear of the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office.

For this reason, Executive Assistant District Attorney Todd Ashley will be doing a lot of listening as head of the new community prosecution office in Alpharetta. His job is to make service more direct and personal for north Fulton residents and police departments, said Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard.

“These communities are concerned about communication,” Howard said. “They want to know what’s going on.”

There are five community prosecution offices already serving Atlanta and south Fulton. North Fulton County’s community prosecution office will represent about 295,000 residents in six cities with five municipal police departments north of I-285.

Area residents for years have complained about receiving inadequate county services for the taxes they pay. The formation of the cities of Sandy Springs, Johns Creek and Milton, as well as the recent talk of re-creating Milton County, all reflect that discontent. Placing a satellite office in Alpharetta to serve the north Fulton community isn’t just a window-dressing gesture at appeasement, Howard said.

Ashley will have more time to discuss cases with city police officers than his downtown colleagues previously had because he will have a lighter caseload. He will handle about 20 cases at any given time, compared to the more than 250 cases that are typically juggled by prosecutors assigned to a courtroom, Ashley said.

Ashley is also a 1988 graduate of Roswell High School and a Milton resident, so he better understands the needs of the community.

Roswell Police Chief Ed Williams was one of the first to recognize a need for a community prosecutor’s office. Last year, he grew frustrated that repeat violators were not receiving stiffer penalties. One particular small-time drug dealer kept returning to the streets soon after being arrested because prosecutors kept allowed him to plead guilty to lesser offenses, Williams said.

“For reasons that I completely understand and agree with, the most serious cases were taking priority in the courts,” Williams said. “But then there was this other factor that these other criminals who don’t meet the mark for whatever reason kept coming back out on the street.”

Williams approached Fulton County District 3 Commissioner Lynn Riley with his concerns and the idea of a community prosecutor’s office quickly gained support from Howard.

Roger Wise Jr., a Roswell resident for 28 years, said this was the right if not overdue move for the county.

“Had the county been reaching out to north Fulton 10 years ago they way they are doing now, they would not have had some of the problems they’ve had,” Wise said.

The community prosecution office, located at 3155 Royal Drive, is in the same office building with the North Fulton Tax Service Center and Health Center. Those satellite offices also opened within the past three years to make government services more accessible for residents outside the perimeter, said Riley.

Ashley said he looks forward to making area residents feel more a part of the judicial process.

“It’s nice to get out amongst the people, listen to the people and hear what they have to say about what we can do and how we can do it better,” Ashley said.