The Communications Division is responsible for all communications, both internally and externally for the Office of the District Attorney. It also oversees community outreach from the office. Through its award-winning public website, interaction with the news media and providing speakers to community groups, the division’s mission is to keep the office transparent and accessible to the public.
The division consists of Communications Director Paul Levikow, Deputy Communications Director Steve Walker, and Public Affairs Officers Midge Costanza, Jesse Navarro and J.J. Anderson.
Media and Public Relations
All inquiries by journalists are handled by the Communications Division. These requests come in daily from across the county, the nation, and the world regarding high-profile prosecutions, office programs, and policy decisions. It’s the mission of the Communications Division to protect the integrity of the criminal justice process, while providing appropriate information to the public.
Throughout the year, the division briefs the District Attorney for numerous television and radio appearances, interviews with print and online reporters, speeches and various public appearances. The DA has identified crime prevention as a co-priority with prosecution and the Communications Division helps to publicize those efforts.
The division’s media training element prepares prosecutors at all levels inside the office to answer media inquiries within a legal and ethical framework. Formalized media training sessions are held for new Deputy District Attorneys, as well as more experienced prosecutors during Felony Advocacy Training.
The Communications Division is proactive in its dealings with the news media. Approximately 60 news releases and media advisories were distributed electronically to the media in 2008. The District Attorney hosted or took part in a dozen news conferences throughout the year at the Hall of Justice and other locations throughout the state in 2008.
The District Attorney’s public website is the “front door” to the office for much of the community. The site explains the prosecutorial mission of the office and highlights crime prevention programs. More and more, the division is leveraging social media to do that. During 2008, the District Attorney's Office established a presence on Facebook, You Tube, and MySpace websites.
The division is also responsible for responding to all emails from the public submitted through the website and strives to have each one answered within 24 hours. The public and news media are further served by the website through a feature that keeps basic information on high profile cases updated on a daily basis.
In 2008, podcasts were posted on the public website addressing current public safety issues including gangs, real estate fraud, and prisoner reentry programming. Podcasts are downloadable audio files that feature the DA and prosecutors discussing various public safety topics.
Content for the DA’s intranet site, known to employees as DA Net, and the public website are managed by the Communications Division along with the DA Web Team.
The Communications Division oversees all of the DA’s publications, including the Annual Report; brochures, and the DA’s E-newsletter, On the Record.
Three members of the Communications Division specialize in community outreach throughout the county. One Public Affairs Officer, Jesse Navarro, specializes in reaching out to the Hispanicmedia and Spanish-speaking residents of San Diego County.
Public Affairs Officer Midge Costanza oversaw the DA’s Annual Citizens Academy, held at the University of San Diego in the fall of 2008. The 10-week program was a cooperative effort by the District Attorney’s Office, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, Superior Court and Public Defender’s Office. The weekly, three-hour classes gave local residents a chance to experience the inner-workings of the criminal justice system.
The division’s compliment of Public Affairs Officers made their way to all parts of the county throughout 2008, representing the District Attorney at various community groups, chambers of commerce, city councils, civic organizations and educational institutions. The goal was to educate the community about resources available at the DA’s Office and highlight crime prevention.
The PAOs also oversaw the DA’s Women’s Advisory Council, Inter-Faith Advisory Board, Youth Advisory Board, meetings with Tribal Governments, San Diego Reentry Roundtable and meetings with local mayors and city attorneys.
The Communications Division was responsible for the planning and execution of three special events during 2008.
The San Diego Rotary Club’s Annual Law Enforcement Salute to Local Heroes was held in January, in which the DA, Sheriff and San Diego Police Chief recognize individuals who came to the aid of law enforcement and crime victims.
The 19th Annual Citizens of Courage Awards luncheon was held in April during National Crime Victims' Rights Week, honoring crime victims and Good Samaritans who came to the aid of crime victims.
A first-of-its kind faith-based Consumer Luncheon was held in March in cooperation with the County Office of Aging and Independence Services. The event was attended by the leaders of congregations from across San Diego who were taught how to help their communities avoid becoming victims of fraud and scams.
Prisoner Reentry Program
The District Attorney’s Office reached a milestone in 2008 by helping the county enrolling nearly 400 participants in SB 618, the county’s prisoner reentry program. The DA’s Office has been on the forefront of the effort to reduce recidivism by heading up the joint program with the state focusing on the transition of non-violent parolees from prison back into our community.
The Communications Division, with help from its AmeriCorps VISTA program, is helping to coordinate literacy and wrap around services to newly-released county jail defendants in hopes of preventing them from re-offending.
Bronze Bernays Award
Best Press Conference: SDSU Drug Bust
Public Relations Society of America