YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — City police are tweaking the way they investigate some of their more serious crimes.
They recently began adding a third detective to be called out to some major crime scenes.
Typically, the department uses two-man detective teams and a supervisor, but now a third detective will be added to investigate some major crimes.
A supervisor will still accompany all teams that are called out.
Youngstown Police Capt. Brad Blackburn said there are two reasons why he decided to add a third detective. The first reason is to use the third detective to check phone records, look up social media posts and prepare search warrant applications so the other two detectives can concentrate on interviewing witnesses and processing the crime scene.
“It’d be nice to have a person start the ball rolling,” Blackburn said.
Blackburn said that while supervisors do some of those duties now, their time to devote to those things is often taken up by dealing with queries from the media and also dealing with patrol supervisors, who must coordinate with detectives to decide how many patrol officers are needed to close off a crime scene or transport witnesses back and forth to the Detective Bureau. That can have an impact on how other calls are answered, not just on the beat where a major crime has occurred, but also throughout the city.
Having a third detective can also help train younger detectives in investigating homicides, Blackburn said. He said instead of throwing those detectives into the fray right away as a member of a two-man team with a more experienced detective, they can gradually become acclimated to homicide work.
The department unveiled the new rotation early Monday morning when a man was found wounded in a driveway in the 2100 block of Buckeye Circle, Blackburn said.
Under the new system, two detectives can go back to the Detective Bureau and begin interviewing witnesses and checking records while the third detective remains on the scene to make sure all evidence is collected and processed.
That can kickstart an investigation because staying at a crime scene until all evidence is collected is crucial. By having an extra detective, it ensures that no crime scene work will be rushed while interviews can take place at the same time, Blackburn said.
“You get one shot at it [crime scene],” Blackburn said. “You want to be as thorough as you can.”
This could also free a detective up to interview a victim at a hospital while the other detectives can interview witnesses and do record checks, Blackburn said. This could even help with family members of victims because they are not kept waiting to be interviewed and it could increase cooperation, Blackburn said.
In recent years, investigators have relied on evidence from cell phones and social media. A detective can be checking those things while other detectives are conducting interviews or they can look things up during an interview, Blackburn said.
The extra can also start on a “preservation letter,” which Blackburn said is a letter to cell phone carriers telling them police will be applying for a search warrant for a certain phone number and asking the carrier to save those records.
Younger detectives will also be able to learn at a slower case and what they learn with other homicide cases can help them with their normal cases, Blackburn said.
“The level of detail you have to pay attention to in a homicide case is like nothing else,” Blackburn said. “It will help you in other cases.”
City detective teams are on call Monday through Monday.
Police Chief Robin Lees said he likes the idea of an extra detective for training purposes and also for speeding up the pace of an investigation.
“The more detectives we have out there the better,” Lees said.
Lees said there are other departments across the country who use three-man teams and city detectives became familiar with them when they attended high-level training earlier this year.
Lees said the department can always go back to using two-man teams if the three-person team does not work out.