YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - More than a dozen police officers from various Valley law enforcement agencies were honored on Wednesday by the Mahoning Valley Chiefs of Police Association.
But it's everyday that they risk their own lives to protect their communities.
Marty Desmond, an Assistant Prosecutor with Mahoning County says, "The guns that are out there are frightening. The things that they see on a day to day basis would make the average person quiver and hide in their house with their doors locked."
Along with battling guns, gangs and drugs, a number of local law enforcement agencies are up against major budget shortfalls and manpower issues that have forced them to find creative ways to combat the bad guys.
One method that seems to be making a major difference is teaming up with federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, U.S. Marshals, the ATF and DEA. It results in a cooperative effort unprecedented in some other parts of the country and includes the sharing of information and resources that's invaluable when it comes to fighting crime.
More than 60 local gang members are now serving federal and state prison sentences because of the cooperative efforts to dismantle the criminal organizations.
Jon Holloway, the FBI Supervisory Agent in Youngstown says, "Youngstown has a gang database now that they're working with. They did a big study with the University of Cincinnati and they're working with all the academia, the community and businesses. Everybody's got to pull together because the FBI doesn't have the answers, the local police department doesn't have the answers. We all have to work together to find the answers, and so that's what we're trying to do."
Police Chief Chuck Colucci, with the Canfield City Police Department and the Chairman of the Mahoning Valley Chiefs of Police Association, said, "The streets are very dangerous and that's one of the reasons why we have an association. Part of our association is giving back to our police officers, providing them with training to keep up with the new trends in crime, and weapons, and so on."
There's also what you could call a new form of community policing taking to the streets. Federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI and their task forces are reaching out to community block watch groups, taking part in community safety summits, and even going door to door to find out the concerns of those who live and work in the city.
Special Supervisory Agent Holloway says, "We're working together to address the problem, and we're working with the community."
Among the officers honored at this year's luncheon, FBI Supervisory Agent John Stoll was recognized as one of the retiring members of the Mahoning Valley Chiefs of Police Association.
Receiving awards for Community Policing, Detective-Sergeant Jeffrey Toth from Austintown; Patrolman Greg Tarr from the Hubbard Township Police Department; Assistant Chief Bruce Emery, Sergeant Randal Campana, and Juvenile Officer Patrick Murphy from the Mill Creek Metro Parks Police Department.
Several members of the Mahoning Valley Violent Crimes Task Force were recognized for a group award for their investigative excellence.
Detective Michael Currington from the Warren Police Department was also recognized for investigative excellence along with Lieutenant William Woodley from the McDonald Village Police Department.
Officer Benjamin Harrell from the Warren Police Department was given the distinguished service award.