CHARLESTON, W.Va. – There’s a great need for more manpower on the West Virginia State Police Crimes Against Children Unit. Currently 17 Troopers are assigned to the special unit which investigates and helps prosecute criminal child abuse and neglect cases.
First Sgt. Mike Baylous, with the West Virginia State Police, said the current caseload is far more than the unit can handle. He said the first six months of this year are a perfect example.
“We had 13 investigators assigned to that unit and they conducted over 700 interviews. That doesn’t even entail all of the rest, of the duties, that they have assigned to them,” Baylous said. “We need to put some more manpower on there!”
But, with the State Police understaffed and underfunded, Baylous stated it’s not an easy task to tackle.
“We need to beef up that unit. We need to put some resources in there and do everything that we can do so that we can protect our greatest resource here, in West Virginia, and that’s our children,” said Baylous.
The First Sgt. is passionate about the issue. He said as a father of four you can’t help but be disturbed by the crimes children across the state are facing.
On Tuesday, the unit made a major arrest when they took 25-year-old Wade Decker of Martinsburg into custody. He’s accused of sending sexually explicit photos to an 11-year-old over the Internet, attempting to obtain nude photos of the victim and then set up a time to meet the 11-year old, in person, for sex.
Decker was arrested on his way to that meeting and charged with several felonies. He’s being held in the Eastern Regional Jail on $175,000 cash or surety bond.
That’s just one of the success stories credited to the Crimes Against Children Unit. There are hundreds more. But those cases are taxing. Baylous said several of the investigators have been with the unit since its inception in 2006 and it’s time to give them a break. But rotating them out has been difficult at best.
“Can you imagine having to be an investigator and view a video of a young child, a toddler, being raped and pleading for help from someone. Those are the types of cases that our investigators are sometimes exposed to,” said Baylous. “We need to take veteran troopers out of the field and put them into these positions. You cannot take a trooper right out of the academy and put them into these types of positions. They need to have three to five years experience at a minimum.”
State Police Superintendent Col. Jay Smithers asked the state Legislature for more funding for his department earlier this week. That’s an issue lawmakers may take up during the regular session which gets underway in January.