Sunday, August 14, 2011

Families push for homicide task force

 August 14, 2011

By TOM GIAMBRONI - Staff Writer ( , Morning Journal News
LISBON - A local group dedicated to keeping the spotlight on unsolved murders and those who died suspicious deaths wants local law enforcement agencies to create a homicide task force to help each other out.
The suggestion was made at this week's meeting of the Columbiana County commissioners by Belinda Puchajda, head of the county Families of Homicide Victims.
She envisions a task force consisting of detectives from local police departments who could be called upon to assist during the first 72 hours of any murder or suspicious death investigation.
"The police departments are all understaffed, plain and simple. There are not enough detectives in our county, and when a homicide does occur they cannot be properly investigated if the detective has to leave to, say, transport a prisoner, has to take his vacation or work on something else," Puchajda said.
She was spurred to action after recently stopping at the county sheriff's office to pass along a tip her organization had received. Puchajda said she sat for 20 minutes waiting to talk with someone before being told no one was available because the detectives and deputies were all busy.
While Puchajda said she understands the sheriff's office is understaffed, "this is unacceptable."
Law enforcement experts say the first 72 hours of any investigation are the most critical, and Puchajda said a task force would be able to help solve the manpower problem by providing a number of detectives to conduct the probe during its initial stages.
Puchajda indicated the departments could assign personnel to serve on the task force, much like the county drug task force works, except they would only be called upon on an as-needed basis instead of being assigned to the task force permanently.
She said having a "great team of collective investigators that are on the scene from the very beginning" will increase the chances of solving the crime.
"We can once again be proud of Columbiana County and maybe murderers will think twice before committing murder if they know this is in place," Puchajda said.
Although Puchajda believes the task force would take very little money to run, she was before commissioners seeking up to $5,000 in seed money to get things started.
Commissioners, who are facing $500,000 in funding cuts next year, said nothing following Puchajda's presentation other than thanking her.
Puchajda said she had sent letters to all local enforcement seeking their support, and she said county Prosecutor Robert Herron is on board.
The homicide task force idea was actually brought up about 10 years ago but never got anywhere due to lack of interest. County Sheriff Ray Stone, who attended the meeting, said he does not intend to pursue the matter.
"It'd be a good idea, but I can't get people to stay on the drug task force," he said.
The sheriff's detectives already hold periodic meetings with detectives from local departments to share information, and the police chiefs also meet.

1 comment:

Soni said...

This is an excellent idea. As well it is obvious we need a new that is willing to fight for what is right.. i am guessing they can not keep people on the drug task force because they require so much before a bust can take place. I am learning more and more why our county is in such trouble going no where but down hill. Hopefully 2012 will prove to be a better year. Thank you for all your efforts u put into trying to bring things to the surface that need to be.. God Bless You!