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Keller @ Large: Rachael Rollins On Progress Made As District Attorney, Lingering Challenges

BOSTON (CBS) - "Boston is an outlier in the nation," says Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, referring to the 14% drop in violent crimes the city enjoyed last year. "We should be very proud."

For Rollins, the city's sharp downturn in violent crime is a badge of honor. But in a lengthy exit interview with WBZ as she prepares to take over as U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, she warned of serious problems stemming from pandemic hardship and disruption.

"All of those pressures coming together at this moment is a recipe at times for disaster for crime," she says. "We have sadly seen an uptick in some of our domestic violence, but we've seen a downward spiral, less reporting, regarding child abuse and neglect, and we know that not to be true."

In the wake of a confirmation process where she was depicted as soft on crimes like larceny, Rollins made it clear there's zero tolerance for the type of smash-and-grab mobs that have hit businesses across the nation. "This is nothing that would ever be considered list of 15 non-violent [crimes]. They aren't even in the same stratosphere, so you will be prosecuted if you engage in this type of behavior."

But she also claimed benefits from her push to release people convicted in cases that were tainted by police misconduct. "That allows people to believe in the system and say 'you know what? If they can admit they did that wrong, and we all know they did, maybe now I'm gonna tell you about a murder that I've witnessed.'"

On the pandemic front, we wondered what her response would be if the spate of local orders requiring proof of vaccination to enter public spaces result in unruliness, as has happened elsewhere. The DA has some questions.

"Who enforces that, number one, would it be the police? Or is it a civil infraction? When does it become criminal? I'd be interested in seeing what's gonna happen there," she says.

And while Rollins says she's not at odds with the US Marshals over their refusal to provide personal security in her new job, it remains a concern: "I wish I didn't need security, but sadly I've received threats I didn't ask for that are incredibly blatant about their racist tones, sexist tones and violence."

Rollins is a tough customer, but in our interview she twice - unprompted - brought up her controversial promise to waive criminal charges for a variety of non-violent crimes. And she made a point we hadn't heard before -- that in 25% of the cases that emerged within those categories, charges were brought because of the details of the offense.

It's hard to say if she's trying to manage expectations of how she'll operate as US Attorney or just rebutting some of the claims that were made about her record.

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