County gets full-time child sex abuse investigator

Published 5:00 am Friday, June 21, 2024

By Terry L. Hapney, Jr.
The Ironton Tribune

A two-year grant totaling $161,000 and another $45,000 grant have brought a full-time child sex abuse investigator to the Lawrence County prosecuting attorney’s office.
Prosecutor Brigham Anderson, while addressing the Lawrence County Commissioners on June 11, said the position fulfills a need the county has had for a quarter century.
“We had this position that was grant funded and that grant went away,” he said. “We haven’t had it since the late 90s. It’s something we desperately needed.”
Anderson said the grant, awarded by the Office of Criminal Justice Services (part of the Ohio Department of Public Safety) on May 30, is for two years and is a non-match grant. The project period is May 1, 2024-May 31, 2026.
“You don’t have to pay any additional funds,” Anderson told the Commissioners. “The Sheriff has agreed to assign a deputy starting today . . . for this purpose.”
The grant covers salary and benefits for a Sheriff’s deputy assigned to Anderson’s office. The idea for this position began when the prosecuting attorney received bids for sexual assault kits.
“We typically don’t use those because King’s Daughters, St. Mary’s and Cabell have kits available,” Anderson said. “Then our office submits them to BCI (Bureau of Criminal Investigation).”
As an alternative, Anderson asked if he could use the funding for an investigator and the answer was no. After six months, he received a call from the Office of Criminal Justice Services stating the organization would fund a six-month pilot program, to which Anderson said he could not do that because he would have to have a deputy assigned to his office.
With the awarding of the grant money, the idea for a full-time investigator covering child sex abuse became a reality.
The deputy, according to Anderson, will work with Children’s Services, out of the Prosecutor’s office, as well as the Sheriff’s Department—to investigate child sex abuse cases. The position will also work with other agencies such as the Ironton Police Department.
“When I took over in 2013, that was the biggest void I found,” Anderson said.
There wasn’t enough staffing to investigate such cases, according to Anderson.
“The Sheriff’s Department has two investigators for everything,” he said. “These cases were falling by the wayside.”
Anderson said that will change. He said the Sheriff’s Department follows up on as many of those cases as possible. He said the current and former detectives do “a great job,” but they “have to do everything in the county.”
“I worked with Missy (Evans of Children’s Services) a lot on this grant,” he said.
Anderson asked the Commissioners for $45,000 for a separate reimbursement grant, which is in addition to the $161,000 grant. He said that grant allows the Prosecutor’s Office to get the position started by meeting payroll.
“We don’t get the money up front,” he told the Commissioners. “We get reimbursed. I’ll give you that back, 100 percent, at the end of the two-year period.”
“That’s a no-brainer,” Commissioner Mike Finley said.
Commissioner Colton Copley made a motion to approve the funding while Finley seconded it.
“It’s easy for me to go along with it,” Commissioner DeAnna Holliday said.
The Commissioners approved the allocation of this funding.
“We’re excited about the program,” Anderson said. “It’s going to be really good for the county.”
“It is,” Holliday said.
At the end of the two-year period Anderson said the plan is to apply for a renewal of the grant if it is available.
“I’m hoping we can meet all our goals we set in our grant application and continue on with it,” he said.

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