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Chiles hardens position on crime

Lawton Chiles gathered the heads of several law enforcement agencies _ including Attorney General Bob Butterworth _ on Monday to persuade people that he will be tougher on crime than Gov. Bob Martinez. Participants said the Martinez administration has misplaced its priorities by emphasizing state prison beds at the expense of crime prevention. The proof, they said, is clear: Criminals are serving less and less of their sentences and committing more and more crimes once they get out.

"Let (Martinez) go out on the streets and see if there's a war on crime and see if it's working and see if the money's being spent right," said Sumter County Sheriff Jamie Adams. "I disagree with him."

Chiles noted that the state expects to have about 53,000 prison beds next year but expects to have almost 86,000 prisoners.

With the state in an unprecedented drug crisis, Chiles said, more of the state's prisons need to be set aside for violent offenders, so they can serve longer sentences. Chiles favors building cheaper county work camps to punish many non-violent criminals. Without spending more money, the state then can attack the roots of crime _ such as drug addiction _ with more treatment, Chiles said.

Martinez's campaign manager, J.M. "Mac" Stipanovich, characterized Chiles' position as "more of the liberal Democratic (approach) _ "Let's fiddle with the system and maybe these guys will stop robbing 7-Eleven's and shooting people.'

"Our attitude is, "Let's lock them up as long as possible, and we're pretty sure they'll stop shooting people."'

Stipanovich repeated the charge that Chiles' new television ad distorts Martinez's record on crime.

The ad notes that the state budget share for law enforcement has declined over the last four years. But the ad doesn't point out that overall state spending for law enforcement has gone up.

Adams, who appears in Chiles' ad, said the ad is fair. He said local police are forced to do much of the work that state law enforcement officials once did.

"I don't know where the money is going to ... but you just don't have the support," Adams said.