Chester County DA Candidates Talk Tough on Crime
Democrat Chris de Barrena-Sarobe and Republican Ryan Hyde, both former prosecutors, have earned their parties’ endorsements for Chester County district attorney.
Democrat de Barrena-Sarobe is a career prosecutor, first in the Chester County District Attorney’s Office and then for the Department of Justice as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Wilmington, Del. He spent his childhood in Sacramento and came to the area to attend law school at Temple University.
Hyde’s background is more varied. Hyde grew up in Arizona and worked in the pharmaceutical industry before attending law school at Villanova. In addition to his law degree, Hyde holds an MBA.
“In the last few years, you’ve seen crime in Philadelphia starting to creep out more and more into the counties. And it’s not just Philadelphia; it’s Wilmington,” Hyde said. “I talked to a narcotics (officer) the other day in Kennett Square, who told me most of the drugs in the lower part of the county are now coming up through Wilmington. And I know a lot of stuff is coming through Baltimore.”
“And to be honest with you, the reason I even toyed with this idea (of running) is because I have a daughter, and I don’t want her growing up with all these problems.”
Hyde, now in practice at Hyde Tebay in Exton as a defense lawyer, was formerly a deputy assistant DA in Bucks County.
“We have to get back to when criminals didn’t come to Chester County because they were afraid of it, frankly. Because we took a very hard stance on crime,” Hyde said.
Chester County Republican Chair Raffi Terzian said, “Mr. Hyde is an experienced attorney with substantial experience as a Deputy District Attorney. At the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office, he led investigations and prosecutions of high-profile drug, theft, and corruption cases.”
“I want to raise my daughter in a safe community, and I’m afraid that’s slipping by every day,” Hyde said. “It’s getting worse.”
Hyde lives in Chester Springs with his wife, Kristen, and 7-year-old daughter.
De Barrena-Sarobe resides in Willistown with his wife, Christa, and two daughters, ages 6 and 8.
He had to quit his federal prosecution job to run for office and is working at Bellwoar Kelly, LLP in West Chester.
“When I realized there was an opening at the DA’s office, I thought that it was the next thing that I could do to really help the community I live in,” he said.
He hopes to bring his experience as a federal prosecutor and deputy DA to Chester County. Asked if crime is increasing in Chester County, de Barrena-Sarobe said, “It’s hard to tell because we don’t get real-time stats, and this is one of the things I’d like to work toward building.”
“But if you look at studies, crime is down across the board,” said de Barrena-Sarobe. “I don’t think there’s been a homicide in Chester County all year…My perception is there is no significant change in crime in Chester County.”
“My priorities would be to make sure that resources and funding for investigations and programs to protect children remain in place,” he said. “The DA’s office has an amazing child abuse unit and detectives that I worked with before when I was at the DA’s office from 2009 to 2015. I want to make sure protecting children remains a top priority.”
He would also prioritize gun crime and investigate straw purchases “to prevent guns from falling into the hands of violent criminals.” He did that work as an assistant U.S. Attorney in Wilmington. He also wants to invest in technology and programs to bring police and communities together and expand programs to treat addiction and mental illness. One program teaches teenagers how to act if they are in a car stopped by police, he said.
He also successfully prosecuted Delaware’s first fentanyl overdose death case after a trial. The defendant sold fentanyl-laced drugs, which killed a young woman.
“I’m the only candidate who’s prosecuted cases in Chester County,” said de Barrena-Sarobe.
Charlotte Valyo, Chester County Democratic Committee chair, echoed that.
“The Chester County Democratic Committee is proud to endorse Chris de Barrena-Sarobe for Chester County District Attorney. de Barrena-Sarobe is by far the most experienced candidate in the race with 13 years of prosecutorial experience both at the federal level and in Chester County,” she said.
Hyde wants to draw from his private-sector experience to improve the public service of the DA’s office. For example, he wants satellite DA offices to work with the police in high-crime areas. He would also like to see district court judges low-level hand crimes where defendants will be sentenced to probation, saving money and freeing up the criminal court docket for Common Pleas judges. Another idea is to start programs for young people in trouble to help them get back on track.
“I have a background in accounting and finance,” he added. “But I also did a lot of drug cases. And I had one of the first homicides by vehicles under the statute when it was formed. I was described as a creative prosecutor because I was willing to work with police officers (about) whether to charge somebody. We made iron-clad criminal complaints and indictments together.”
Hyde says the number of drug overdoses “terrifies me,” and he doesn’t support drug legalization. Instead, he says, his strategy will be “to educate people that this stuff is going on, even in Chester County.”
And, Hyde says, it’s time for a change.
“I think the Democratic Party has tried to take away law enforcement’s power to do good,” said Hyde. “You have to hold people accountable, and we’re getting away from that as a country. I think we need to get back to that, especially with law enforcement.”
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