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Prosecutor can have crucial effect on kids

March 14, 2001

Prosecutor can have crucial effect on kids



Editor's note: This is the fourth in a weeklong series of stories profiling women who are making a contribution in the Tri-State area.

By MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Susan Haugh LochbaumPhoto: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

Susan Haugh Lochbaum's impact on the lives of some children in Washington County can be life-changing.

An assistant Washington County state's attorney, Lochbaum is in charge of juvenile prosecutions. Lately, her concerns have been escalating.

"There are some very serious offenses being committed by juveniles and their needs aren't being met," Lochbaum said. "Sometimes the gloves have to come off."

Lochbaum said her overwhelming concern is to intervene early and effectively so young offenders don't repeat what got them into trouble.

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In Maryland, offenders up to the age of 21 can be removed from their homes and placed in foster care, group homes or institutions.

"I have a lot of authority when I go into juvenile court," Lochbaum said.

While by law one of her top priorities is public safety, Lochbaum spends long hours advocating for juveniles and their issues, whether they are offenders or victims.

"I'm actively involved in the new child advocacy center which opened in January on the third floor of the Walnut Street Clinic," Lochbaum said. "Three staff members from the Department of Social Services are on staff there full time."

Two years ago, Lochbaum, several local social workers and police officers went to Huntsville, Ala., to study a model child advocacy center called The Little House.

At such a place, a child victim can be interviewed just once by all the appropriate authorities in a quiet, safe place.

At the center, trained adults know how to treat children who report abuse, how to reach them and how to make the difficult situation easier to bear.

Lochbaum learned how to rebut defense attorneys and to make sure jurors have no doubt a child has been abused.

"There is no harder case to prosecute," Lochbaum said. "Our training and the center maximize our chances to successfully prosecute child victimizers."

A native of New Jersey, Lochbaum, 39, grew up in Bel Air, Md., and attended the University of Maryland, College Park, and the University of Baltimore Law School.

She came to the Washington County State's Attorney's office in 1989 after 1 1/2 years of handling architect malpractice cases with the Baltimore law firm of Smith, Summerville and Case.

"I liked the work but I didn't like being money-motivated," Lochbaum said. "I took a 50 percent pay cut to come here."

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