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County wants to hire prosecutor for major crimes

The types of serious crimes happening in Washington County is on the rise, and County Attorney Pete Orput wants to make sure the people committing those crimes are held accountable.

As part of the 2016 budget process, Orput has asked the Washington County Board of Commissioners to consider adding a major crimes prosecutor position to the county attorney’s staff. At first, Orput said, the position would be set up as a two-year trial role, but if it shows success, he would like to permanently add it in the future.

Technically, the number of crimes that are being prosecuted in Washington County are down, Orput told commissioners at an Aug. 11 budget workshop. However, the crimes that are coming forward are more serious, more organized, than in years past. 

“I’m not talking necessarily gangs, we have a few of those cases and we handle those well,” he said. “I’m talking about organized retail theft that’s been hitting our communities, especially in Woodbury and Oakdale. I’m talking about the sex trafficking that’s going on and how we need to put our resources into the long-term and tracking those down, and some other complex cases.”

Orput proposed the county use its county mission directed funds — dollars that are not spent during a fiscal year are set into the program to fund projects not originally budgeted — to pay for the temporary position. 

He wants to move one of his current prosecutors into the position. That new major crimes prosecutor would then work with local police departments and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office to investigate, and prosecute, the bigger crimes. He has already spoken to Woodbury and Oakdale police, and both have indicated support for this proposal.

“I want to see if we can’t make a difference on some of those crimes that deserve a lot of attention, and a lot of time,” Orput said. 

Orput is confident that the county attorney’s office will be able to demonstrate a measure of success in the prosecution of major crimes through this trial position, but if he feels progress is not being made, he would eliminate the position and withdraw the funding request.

County board members indicated their support for the position.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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