Politics & Government

Louis Rango said he’d help rehabilitate youthful offenders as sheriff

Fourth in a series

Louis Rango has thought he’d make a good Mecklenburg sheriff for years. But he says he and his wife did some soul searching and decided to take the plunge in January, a few weeks before the deadline to file for office.

Since then, they’ve crisscrossed the county, putting signs in the yards of friends and supporters.

He hadn’t filed a campaign finance report for the end of 2013 because there was no campaign. His campaign website is a Facebook page.

Rango takes on Chris Hailey in the Republican primary on May 6. Early voting starts April 24.

Rango says as sheriff he’d find other ways to rehabilitate youthful offenders before they can become more hardened, seasoned criminals. The focus is a byproduct of his job for the last seven years, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department auto theft detective.

“When you’re in auto theft, you’re dealing with a ton of kids,” Rango said. “I’ve talked to so many grandmothers who have custody of these kids. And I’ll say ‘Here’s my number; I’ll do what I can.’ ”

One of those teens, Rango said, was a 15-year-old who was charged in a string of robberies and a murder in late March. Rango said he had a heart-to-heart conversation with the teen a week before the alleged crimes happened, encouraging him to straighten up.

He believes the county shouldn’t ship juvenile inmates to other parts of the state to be housed before trial. The 30-bed Gatling Juvenile Detention Facility closed its doors in April 2009, a victim of state budget cuts. Before it closed, the facility held adolescents facing the most serious charges, including gang members.

Rango has worked as a police officer in Pineville and was one of the first sheriff’s deputies to stand guard inside Jail North. He believes the Sheriff’s Office can do a better job rehabilitating inmates.

Another priority: figuring out why so many people arrested for DWI have their cases thrown out because they aren’t processed through the jail fast enough. State law requires the jail officials to process people accused of DWI quickly so they can interview witnesses in their defense or get an independent blood-alcohol test.

“I started asking around,” Rango said, “and it could be anywhere from 40 to 45 percent of cases that we’re losing on a Knoll motion.”

“I don’t want to place blame, but I just want to figure out why it’s happening,” he said. Staff researcher Maria David contributed.

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