Rapid City is struggling with rising crime rates, which is also putting a strain on local courts. The Pennington County district attorney says now is a good time to consolidate much of her office's work into a single unit.

Pennington County's new Major Crimes Unit will provide attorneys with additional opportunities to focus on their work and the opportunity to work in teams to tackle difficult cases.

Local prosecutor Laura Roetzel explained this.

“The Major Crimes Unit consists of a cadre of attorneys, secretaries, a paralegal and an investigator who will focus on major violent crimes in our county,” Roetzel said. “It was created when I realized we just weren't doing our best job in that area, coupled with an increase in that violent crime in our community since COVID.”

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

“When a lawyer works in isolation, especially on a challenging case, it's difficult to see the forest for the trees,” Roetzel said. “So I thought that working as a sole major crimes prosecutor wouldn't be nearly as beneficial as creating a major crimes unit.”

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

“When it comes to prosecution for a crime, it can be anything from drugs to drunk driving to grand theft to white collar crime,” Roetzel said. “The lawyers there do all of those things. I think we all want to believe that Rapid City is still a small town and that this is Mayberry – but it's just not.”

So far, three prosecutors have been assigned to the unit. They include Roxanne Hammond, a sex crimes specialist, Adam Shiffermiller, a violent crimes expert, and lead prosecutor Jason Thomas.

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