WASHINGTON (AP) _ Many people link the name of Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle with his investigation of former Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay. But the outgoing prosecutor also wants the nation to remember his work on what he calls community justice.

Earle, who is retiring at the end of the year, said he has built his office around the concept that justice is not just about putting people behind bars, but keeping them from getting there and returning once they're out.

"Crime is a concern of the community, not just of the cops and prosecutors," he said.

He was in Washington this week as part of a panel that included former U.S. attorneys general Ed Meese, Richard Thornburgh and Janet Reno. The panel was assembled by the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate the National Institute of Justice and the direction of its research.

The institute, an arm of the Justice Department, researches law enforcement techniques.

Earle, who has been Travis County's district attorney for three decades, said he hoped to encourage law enforcement approaches that have worked in keeping the crime rate low in Austin compared to other cities its size.

Earle has earned scorn and praise for his office's criminal investigation of DeLay and his associates in a campaign finance scandal. DeLay, a Houston-area congressman, was indicted but the case is on hold pending appeals court rulings on charges against the associates.

Earle also has investigated U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchion, but dropped the case in trial. She was acquitted of charges connected to her term as state treasurer. His office is responsible for prosecuting public officials and has prosecuted other Democratic and Republican officeholders.

Earle has been mentioned as a possible candidate for higher office, possibly governor in 2010.

On the Net: National Academies: http://www.nationalacademies.org/

National Institue of Justice: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/

Travis County district attorney: http://www.co.travis.tx.us/district—attorney/default.asp

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.