CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A group of lawmakers were at the State Capitol Tuesday discussing where they can find more funding for the West Virginia State Police Crimes Against Children Unit.
Members of the Legislature’s Select Committee on Crimes Against Children are seeking funding for a new class of state troopers so the State Police unit dedicated to preventing and resolving crimes against children can be expanded.
“That’s one of our missions is to take care of the health and welfare of our citizens,” said Committee Vice Chairwoman Barbara Fleischauer.
Committee members have spent the past five months consulting with professionals across the state who work to protect vulnerable and abused children and have realized that there is a need.
Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, said the Crimes Against Children Unit is currently understaffed and overburdened.
“This is one of the reasons they need more troopers is because it is so traumatic to work with these little kids that are beaten and abused at a very young age frequently by people they know,” she said. “They need to move out and go work on other issues for awhile.”
A new class of state troopers graduates would allow for more experienced officers to be moved into the Crimes Against Children Unit.
Currently, there are 18 uniformed members of the Crimes Against Child Unit. Of those,14 are investigators, three are supervisors and there is one analyst. There are six civilian personnel.
Delegate Fleischauer said finding a way to pay for another trooper class is essential for fighting against child abuse and exploitation in West Virginia.
“I can’t imagine anything more important than these innocent children,” she said.
The cost to train and equip a class of 50 new troopers would be about $5.7 million.
Fleischauer said she understands how tough it will be to find that kind of money with the state’s budget being as tight as it is, but it is possible.
“We have some ideas where we might be able to move around some existing funding,” she explains.
Lawmakers Tuesday afternoon announced plans to propose legislation that would increase funding by more than $5 dollars.
Fleischauer said it’s their responsibility to find a way so the kids can be protected.