Oct 12, 2:09 PM EDT

Indiana US attorney to focus on corruption, opioids, gangs


CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) -- The new U.S. attorney in northern Indiana says he wants to focus on public corruption, opioid addiction and gangs.

Thomas Kirsch II was sworn into the office on Tuesday. Kirsch will oversee criminal prosecutions for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Northern District of Indiana, which covers 32 counties and about 2.5 million people. That includes Hammond, South Bend, Fort Wayne and Lafayette.

Kirsch told the Crown Point Rotary on Wednesday that pursuing public corruption cases will continue to be a priority.

But he said drug cases, which make up almost a quarter of the office's workload, will also be prioritized. About half of those cases involve heroin while 30 percent are methamphetamine related, he said.

While the office is particularly suited to handle white-collar crimes, violent crime is also a big issue, Kirsch said. About half of the cases the Hammond location deals with involve violent crime.

Kirsch said he also wants to create an enhanced version of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a 2011 U.S. Department of Justice initiative that aims to reduce gun and gang violence.

"It says that we should vigorously prosecute crimes in the most violent locations and we should look for the most violent offenders," he said. "And we should arrest them and prosecute them and take them off the streets."

Kirsch previously was an assistant U.S. attorney for northern Indiana and worked in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Policy.

"There were often times where I was investigating individuals or even indicting folks, local elected officials, I didn't even know what party they were a part of," Kirsch said. "I had Republicans. I had Democrats. That had absolutely nothing to do with the investigation and the indictment."

President Donald Trump nominated Kirsch in July. He replaces David Capp, who resigned in March after leading the office since 2007 under President Barack Obama.

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