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Pennington County States Attorney office establishes major crimes unit

Pennington County Administration Building
Lee Strubinger
Pennington County Administration Building

As Rapid City grapples with an increased crime rate, that also means strain on the local court network. The Pennington County States Attorney says now is a good time to consolidate much of her office’s work in a single unit.

The new major crimes unit in Pennington County will allow additional focus for attorneys. It also creates an opportunity for group work to tackle major cases.

Local States Attorney Laura Roetzel explained.

“The major crimes unit is a cadre of attorneys, secretaries, a paralegal and an investigator that will focus on major violent crime in our county," Roetzel said. "It was formulated when I realized we just really weren’t doing our best work on that high-end, coupled with a raise in that violent crime in our community ever since COVID.”

She said the unit will help her office look at bigger picture issues.

“When an attorney works in isolation, especially in a high-end case, it’s difficult to see the forest for the trees," Roetzel said. "That’s why I thought working just as a solo major crime prosecutor would not be nearly as beneficial as the creation of a major crimes unit.”

Roetzel said it also reflects the reality of a growing Pennington County.

“When you’re talking about felony prosecution, that could be anything from drugs to DUI to grand theft to white collar crime," Roetzel said. "Those lawyers over there are doing all of those things. I think that we all want to believe Rapid City is still a small town and that this is Mayberry – and it’s just not.”

Three prosecutors have been assigned to the unit so far. They include Roxanne Hammond, a sexual crime specialist, Adam Shiffermiller, a violent crime expert, and senior State’s Attorney Jason Thomas.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture