POMEROY — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine made a stop in Pomeroy Thursday afternoon as part of a three-day trip through southern Ohio.
DeWine met with local law enforcement personnel from around the region in a round table meeting to discuss services available to the local agencies and any concerns on the local level.
Law enforcement officials from numerous agencies, including the Meigs, Gallia and Jackson County Sheriff’s Offices, Gallipolis, Marietta, Middleport, Athens and Pomeroy Police Departments, were in attendance for the meeting. Also in attendance were representatives from the Meigs County Commissioner’s Office and the Meigs County Prosecutor’s Office.
DeWine spoke about the improvements and added services available to area law enforcement through the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) and the Ohio Police Officer Training Academy.
DeWine noted that the job of his agency is to serve law enforcement in helping to protect residents.
“Everything has to do with protecting Ohio families,” he commented.
The Attorney General spoke of the advances in processing of items for criminal investigations. He stated that the turn around time for processing items through BCI is now 21 days, down from 125 days prior to the time DeWine took office. He also commented on the decreased turn around time in processing of drugs.
While the processing times are down, DeWine added that they could still be less when necessary for a specific case.
DeWine said that the Attorney General’s Office has put more resources into BCI, hiring more scientists and investigators and fewer lawyers during his time as Attorney General.
In addition to the decreased wait times, the addition of a BCI office in Athens has allowed for local law enforcement to cut down on travel outside of the area to have items processed.
DeWine also discussed a simulator program available for training of officers without taking the time to travel outside of the county.
While there is a waiting list for the program, the training is offered free of charge to the law enforcement agencies.
Two types of training are available, one on situations involving when to shoot, and another on automobile training.
Both trainings, according to DeWine, are to help reduce the top two causes of deaths to police officers in the line of duty — car accidents and shootings.
DeWine noted that other services his office provides include assistance with processing of crime scenes and special prosecution when conflicts arise in case or investigations.
He also said his office has taken a particular interest in the investigation and prosecution of scams.
One item of key concern for local law enforcement at the meeting was the drug epidemic. While DeWine noted a heroin problem that is on the rise across the state, Sgt. Bill Gilkey and Gallia County Sheriff Joe Browning both noted the increase in methamphetamine labs in the local area.
Browning added that in interviewing the methamphetamine suspects it appears some are making and selling methamphetamine to buy heroin.
Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood noted the budget difficulties of law enforcement in the region. Major Scott Trussell expanded on the matter, noting that at one point this year the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office had 48 people in custody, estimating 95 percent of those to be drug related.
While the area is small and has limited resources, those in attendance stated that the Attorney General’s Office played a large role in helping the local agencies.
Jackson County Sheriff Tedd Frazier had nothing but praise for the Attorney General and his office.
DeWine also referred to advances in technology with updates to OHLEG (an Ohio law enforcement data base) and facial recognition software in the identifying of crime suspects and homicide victims.
DeWine encouraged any of the law enforcement agencies to contact him or his office at anytime for assistance.
While in the region on Thursday, DeWine also visited Serenity House, a domestic violence shelter in Gallia County which serves Meigs, Gallia and Jackson counties.