WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – The incidents of crime have risen so high in Trumbull County since the pandemic that the prosecutor has asked to create a new task force and the governor has given him money to do it.

Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins said that violent crime has increased since the beginning of the pandemic, and the county has dealt with an increasing number of homicides, assaults, sex offenses, arsons and weapons offenses.

“While local police and prosecutors, with the help of the public, have been successful for many years in prosecuting violent offenders in Trumbull County courtrooms, the COVID-19 pandemic created issues that have now surfaced in the post-COVID-19 era,” he wrote.

Watkins said those increases have taxed his office and require more time and effort by attorneys and investigators.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has awarded the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office $495,151 from the state’s Violent Crime Reduction Program to help with the caseload. Funds for the task force will also come from American Rescue Plan money, making it 100% funded without local cash or matching funds.

Attorney Kevin Trapp, of Warren, has been hired to help with a new Repeat Violent Offender Unit and will head a new Grand Jury Direct Presentment Program, targeting “career criminals,” those who commit violent crimes and repeat offenders who commit crimes at businesses in Trumbull County such as malls, stores, plazas, grocery stores and shopping areas — where many crimes have been occurring.

“Unfortunately, this office, as well as the public, is aware of a marked increase in retail thefts and robberies where repeated and sometimes unabated shoplifting activities endanger employees and customers, as well as responding officers,” Watkins said. “Any violence reduction program must take into account those offenders who fail rehabilitative programs and continue to commit crime that unnecessarily endangers public safety and undermines public confidence in the justice system.”

Trapp begins work on the new unit on April 10.