A newly-hired Lancaster County detective will work under District Attorney Craig Stedman while coordinating the county-wide Crime Scene Forensic Unit.
Jeffrey Bell, a longtime investigator with the Lancaster city police, recently worked his first shifts as a Lancaster County Detective.
Bell has 27 years of experience in law-enforcement and spent 19 of those years as a detective and Crime Scene Evidence Technician.
The county detectives, under the guidance of Chief Detective Kent Switzer, work on a variety of tasks, including investigations of major crimes, and other complex investigations that involve man-hours and resources not available to smaller police departments in the county.
Bell will mainly serve as the detective sergeant in charge of the Crime Scene Forensic Unit, formed about 15 years ago to assist in crime-scene analysis and evidence collection at homicides and other major, violent crimes.
Detective Scott Eelman, a full-time employee with East Lampeter Township police, had filled that role essentially since the unit’s inception. His home department, and recently-retired Chief John Bowman, had allowed Detective Eelman to work many hours with the county-wide team.
“I cannot thank Detective Eelman enough for his years of leadership and expertise, as well as East Lampeter Township for allowing him to be available in that role,” District Attorney Stedman said.
Detective Eelman will stay on the unit which has grown to about 25 investigators, as a team leader. The 25 investigators are from police departments across the county. Most departments are unable to staff and afford the expensive technical equipment and training needed to conduct effective, forensic scene processing, so pooling them provides a benefit to all municipalities.
SEASONED INVESTIGATORS, CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY
Last year, the Crime Scene Forensic Unit responded to 17 crimes scenes, where they spent many hours, sometimes over multiple days. Their work has proved invaluable in court, as they provide detailed analysis of evidence collected, including blood-spatter analysis, which can reveal how a wound was inflicted, and at what angle and distance.
The importance of the unit has increased over the years and can often make the difference in whether a case is solved as well as successfully prosecuted.
The unit preserves evidence for DNA testing and high-tech documentation of crime scenes, which has become a necessity to keep up with the demands of what must be presented in court.
The Crime Scene Forensic Unit keeps and operates a cutting-edge investigative tool: The Leica Scanner, a three-dimensional, video scanning device. The scanner and data collectors capture 3-D images of a crime scene, as well as a crash scene, allowing investigators to permanently preserve the scene (measurements, locations, photos, etc.). This allows for much more accurate, efficient and productive processing of crime scenes. Prosecutors, in turn, present that scene footage to juries. Lancaster County is one of very few counties to have such a device.
“This hire will give greater continuity and stability to the incredibly important field of crime-scene forensics,” District Attorney Stedman said. “It will improve our ability to solve and successfully prosecute the most serious crimes in Lancaster County.”
Chief Detective Switzer said of Bell:
“We are fortunate to have someone so uniquely qualified for this position, in terms of his vast amount of experience both in criminal investigations and in crime-scene processing. Detective Sergeant Bell has been involved in a countless number of homicide cases and other major-crime investigations.”
More specifically, the county detectives conduct investigations in homicides, shootings, stabbings, robberies, child abuse, computer crimes, drugs and other major cases, as well as cases involving referrals from county police departments, crimes involving county employees, threats made involving the Lancaster County Courthouse or other county buildings, investigations at Lancaster County Prison, and a variety of background investigations.
The detectives are also involved in coordinating county-wide efforts regarding vehicle theft, domestic violence, animal cruelty, and gang intelligence. The detectives also participate in the FBI’s Capital City Violent Crimes Task Force in the south-central Pennsylvania region.
NEW STRUCTURE IN DETECTIVE DIVISION
Bell’s hire comes after a rank structure was implemented within the county detective unit last year for the first time. This included promoting three existing county detectives to sergeants to head the Lancaster County Drug Task Force (DTF), the Lancaster County Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) and the Digital/Computer Forensics Unit (DFU)-Lancaster County Computer Crimes Task Force.
These promotions, along with the newly created position of Deputy Chief County Detective, provides for a sound leadership structure, training regiment, and delegation of work.
Switzer serves as Chief Detective and Charles “Chuck” Schmidt as Deputy Chief Detective, being hired in January 2017.
As a result, there are now four sergeants within the unit, which at capacity, carries 18 detectives, including two who work primarily on computer crimes and other computer-related aspects of investigations. Three detectives are assigned to the Drug Task Force.
Bell will serve as one of those sergeants. The three other sergeants, who previously headed their assigned units, are:
- John Burkhart of the Lancaster County Drug Task Force
- James Zahm of the Lancaster County SERT Unit
- John Duby of the Lancaster County Computer Crimes Task Force-Digital Forensics Unit
Detective Jeffrey Krause joined the county detectives last year as an evidence custodian detective for the Drug Task Force.
A special thanks to the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners for supporting these efforts.
MEDIA CONTACT: Brett A. Hambright, 717-295-2041; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @BrettHambright