Crime is big business in Washington County, costing taxpayers more than 14 million annually to employ police, prosecutors and operate municipal and county courts.
At the city level, crime related expenses for 2011 totaled $3.79 million, or 11 percent of the city's total budget. With the additional expenses of the county jail and juvenile center, Washington County's costs for crime swelled to $10.34 million, or about 22 percent of the county's total appropriations for the year.
With dwindling revenues at the city and county levels - and ever-tightening budgets - officials say it is important to keep close tabs on overtime and costs associated with major investigations.
BRAD BAUER The Marietta Times
Washington County sheriff's Deputy Bryan Reeder files a report this week from his cruiser. The operating costs at the sheriff's criminal division was more than $3.7 million this year.
"You look at the numbers, and they don't lie," said Washington County Commissioner Cora Marshall. "Before I took office (three years ago), I would have been surprised at the costs associated with crime. Now, I'd just like to know what the answers are because the costs aren't going down."
Still, Marietta police is operating with two fewer officers than appropriated and the sheriff's office has indicated a desire to add at least two more road officers.
"Taxpayers and victims of crime expect us to provide law enforcement," Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks said. "They want us to provide a safe environment where people can work, have recreation and feel safe in their neighborhoods and homes.
Costs of common crimes:
The average number of police man hours involved in common cases and the total cost (in hourly wages):
Disorderly conduct: 1.5 hours, $35.92.
OVI: 5 hours, $119.75.
Simple traffic crash: 1.5 hours, $35.92.
Domestic violence (with arrest): 3 hours, $71.85.
Domestic violence (no arrest): 30 minutes, $11.97.
Shoplifting: 2.5 hours, $59.87.
Possession of drugs: 3 hours, $71.85.
Source: Marietta Police Department.
County costs associated with crime:
Washington County Public Defender (county share): $597,405.
Prosecuting Attorney's Office: $543,508.
Common Pleas: $425,616.
Juvenile Court: $296,737.
Juvenile Probation: $281,912.
Juvenile Center: $1.2 million.
Clerk of Courts: $331,032.
Municipal Court (county share): $139,600.
Sheriff (Criminal division): $3.87 million.
Sheriff (Jail): $2.66 million.
Total crime related expenses: $10.34 million (22 percent of the county's total budget and 72 percent of the county's total general fund appropriations).
Source: Washington County Auditor's Office.
City costs associated with crime:
Marietta Police Department: $2.58 million.
Municipal Court: $757,635.
Marietta Law Director's Office: $453,366.
Total crime related expenses: $3.79 million (11 percent of the city's total budget and 43 percent of the city's total general fund appropriations).
Source: Marietta City Auditor's Office.
"We could use more officers but there is also need to balance your budget," he said.
Other than keeping an eye on overtime budgets, both Mincks and Marietta police officials said there is little concern for cost when it comes to investigating serious crimes.
"Certainly, there are times when we don't necessarily need to travel out of state to track down a witness but there are also plenty of instances when it's just the cost of doing business," said Marietta Police Capt. Jeff Waite. "There are some types of cases where you go through any legal means to bring someone to justice. Forget the cost."
Waite referenced two recent cases where a significant amount of man hours and resources were invested to seek arrests and convictions. The first case involved the 2009 arrest of Marietta resident Daniel Keck, who was accused of sexually abusing several area children he was supposedly mentoring. The second case involved the 2011 conviction of Landon Evans, who was accused of impregnating a relative, delivering the child at a local motel and then killing the child and disposing of her remains.
A review of police records this month showed approximately 2,000 hours of work -$47,900 in officers' salaries - went into the investigation and trial preparation for the Keck case. There was also about $640 in travel expenses related to the case.
Keck was ultimately convicted on multiple counts of child abuse and sentenced to serve 70 years in prison.
"It was about nine months of work, almost non-stop," said Marietta police Detective Troy Hawkins, the lead investigator on the Keck case. "By far, this was the No. 1 case I've ever worked on as far as time consumption. No doubt in my mind. There was surveillance, the extensive interviewing of witnesses ... It required the reviewing of video and thousands of images (of child pornography) ... There were boxes and boxes of files we sifted though and trial prep was almost daily in the months leading up to trial."
Local police agencies track work hours, but not the specific amount of time an officer spends on any part of an investigation, so a more detailed look at the case was not available - except for travel expenses, which are recorded.
In investigating the case, Hawkins and two other officers, Ryan Huffman and Katie Warden, traveled to Indiana and Kentucky to interview potential victims in the case.
"There would have been no way we could have briefed another officer (at another agency) enough to ask the right questions," Hawkins said. "And there is always a possibility a victim says some little thing that another officer may not realize is significant."
An example of that was gleaned from one of the out-of-town interviews, where a victim mentioned Keck and Vasoline.
"That may not have meant anything to another officer, but it meant a hell of a lot to me," Hawkins said.
During the investigation into Keck, several victims -all independent of each other - had mentioned Keck's use of the product, Hawkins said.
Waite said no expenses are spared for investigations into child sex cases, as well as other rapes and violent crimes.
"I don't think we have a specific policy, I think that's just what is expected," he said. "That's what a victim and the community would want."
For the Evans investigation, four officers - two each from Marietta police and the sheriff's office -traveled to Florida for three days to assist officials there in the search and arrest of the man.
The trip cost $3,782 in total salaries (including 10 hours overtime per officer) and approximately $1,000 in fuel, lodging and food costs.
Officers are afforded up to $40 per day for meals and their own room at an approved hotel. The sheriff's office has a credit card that approved officers can use for travel. At the police department, officers are reimbursed when receipts are submitted.
Waite defended any costs associated with the Evans arrest.
"We felt it was important to have officers there who were familiar with the case to be there for that initial interview," he said.
During the interview, Hawkins and Washington County Sheriff's Detective Mark Johnson were able to provoke several incriminating statements from Evans. Ultimately, Evans reached a plea deal to avoid the death penalty and was sentenced to serve 24 years in prison for killing the infant.
And while salaries and benefits take up most of the expenses at local law enforcement agencies (more than 90 percent), other major expenses include fuel and equipment repair and maintenance. For this year, Marietta police burned though $42,929 of gasoline. The department had budgeted for $15,000 in repairs for their vehicles. A total of the repair expenses was not immediately available this week.
Stacie Johnson, 53, of Fleming, said the $14 million spent on crime in the county sounds high but she wouldn't want to live without law enforcement.
"At the surface, (the cost) seems high," she said. "I would like to see the breakdown on salaries and other expenses but I would hate to see what things would be like if we didn't spend the money.
"As a homeowner, I like to know police are out there and able to respond in a reasonable amount of time," she said.