Firsthand experience |

Firsthand experience

Attorney General a victim of the crime he fights

— In June 2005, someone stole pre-printed checks out of an envelope in the mailbox of Colorado Attorney General John Suthers.

“I had never heard of pre-printed checks before,” Suthers said Tuesday during a visit to the Steamboat Pilot & Today. Suthers visited Steamboat Springs as part of a campaign tour on the Western Slope. Appointed to the state’s Attorney General position by Gov. Bill Owens in January 2005, Suthers, a Republican, hopes to continue his service and is running against Democratic challenger Fern O’Brien.

The pre-printed check incident, he said, gives him firsthand experience of identity theft, a crime Suthers said he has spent much of the past 18 months fighting.

Because a check casher grew suspicious of the thief and got his car’s license plate number, police were able to locate the thief and return the checks to Suthers.

“Now we have a locked mailbox,” Suthers said.

A former U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado and district attorney for Colorado Springs, Suthers said he has found identity theft to be a growing problem in the state.

Legislation signed into law this year, he said, consolidates numerous related crimes under an identity theft umbrella and creates a mandatory six-year sentence for a second offense.

Reducing identity theft in Colorado will have a ripple effect on safety in the state, he said.

“It’s very closely related to other crime problems,” Suthers said, listing methamphetamine use as an example.

To work against the spread of meth use in Colorado, Suthers created a 25-member, statewide methamphetamine task force and supported legislation, also made law this year, that puts components of meth behind the counter in drug stores.

“We’ve really dried up a lot of the homegrown labs,” Suthers said.

On the Western Slope, Suthers said most of the questions he hears are about water. A key to preserving Colorado water, he said, is continuing to adhere to the Colorado River Compact, which was enacted in 1922 and defines how much water stays in Colorado and how much the state is obligated to send to “Lower Basin” states such as Arizona, Nevada and California.

While those states would like to rewrite the compact given swelling populations in the Southwest, Suthers said the original document must continue to be honored.

“We want that compact rigidly enforced,” Suthers said.

O’Brien is an attorney who lives in Gunbarrel, just outside of Boulder on the Front Range. Suthers said he has yet to meet her, but his experience as Attorney General is one of the greatest differences between the candidates.

– To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203 or e-mail

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