U.S. shows appreciation for fugitive-hunting cops
The Violent Crimes Task Force has made 3,041 arrests in 12 years.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- They're the ones who crawl down spider holes and drag out the predators of our community.
That's how U.S. Attorney Greg White described members of the Mahoning Valley Violent Crimes Task Force who received commendation certificates Friday. "They deal with people no one else wants to deal with," he said after the ceremony at task force headquarters on Market Street.
White said he's a great fan of those who do the "grunt work" in law enforcement.
FBI Special Agent John Kane, head of the bureau's Boardman office said the ceremony was a unique opportunity to recognize outstanding work.
The task force prevents violent crimes by taking fugitives off the streets, said FBI Special Agent Gerald Mack, head of the bureau's Cleveland office. He said that, since the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001, everyone realizes the value of joint partnerships.
"They place themselves in harm's way on a daily basis," Mack said.
The task force, beginning its 12th year, recently passed the 3,000-arrests milestone. In January, Jermaine Watson of Youngstown, wanted on two counts of felonious assault, represented the 3,000th arrest.
As of Friday, the task force had made 3,041 arrests. The unit hunts those wanted on warrants that charge murder, rape, armed robbery and so forth.
After the commendation certificates were awarded, Mack said it was time to recognize FBI Special Agent Lee Hopper, task force coordinator. A round of applause greeted Hopper, who has been with the unit since it formed.
The team consists of full and part-time police officers on loan from their respective departments. Participants include the FBI, Mahoning County Sheriff's Department, Ohio Adult Parole Authority, Mill Creek MetroParks, Hubbard (city), Youngstown, Boardman, Austintown, Canfield, Struthers, Youngstown State University, Campbell and Poland Township.
To the task force, the most sought-after fugitive was Martin L. Koliser Jr., who fled to Florida after shooting a city patrolman to death in April 2003. He was apprehended within roughly 30 hours.
"It was a textbook case," Hopper said during an interview earlier this month. "Everyone came together, the search went up and down the East Coast."
Youngstown Police Chief Robert E. Bush Jr. said the task force efforts affect the whole Mahoning Valley. He said the diverse members work hard, regardless of the jurisdiction.
FBI Special Agent John Lichtefeld, supervisor of the task force, said the unit is becoming more proactive in its gang investigations. He said there have been roughly 500 people identified who have a gang affiliation.