PC State’s Attorney Office overworked with “violent crime at unprecedented levels”

Pennington County Commission
Pennington County Commission(Jeffrey Lindblom)
Published: Feb. 15, 2022 at 5:29 PM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - The Pennington County Commission approved the promotion of a long-time Attorney’s Office employee to Assistant Chief Deputy.

That’s something Mark Vargo, Pennington County States Attorney, calls a long time coming.

Vargo says the employee has been working above and beyond her pay grade for a long time by assisting in a lot of high level ways, especially on the side of criminal prosecution. Which, is an area Vargo says their staff is currently lacking.

He says that works against them, citing what he calls an unprecedented amount of violent crime.

”Homicides right now are at a level that Pennington County has never seen before. Our last two years on average, we’re at 14 homicides. Our previous top was seven in a given year. So, each of the last two years,” Vargo explains, “we’ve basically doubled that.”

He says due to the increase, a lot of their younger and less experienced attorneys are taking on overwhelming case loads. Adding the new Assistant Chief Deputy had been helping mentor those attorneys as they faced things they never had before.

“Anytime you give someone an untenable case load, they’re going to make more mistakes. There’s just no way around that. As prosecution, we are scrutinized on every single case,” Vargo says, “that’s just not something that can be ignored.”

He says he’s glad the commission was willing to recognize the now Assistant Chief Deputy’s work with the promotion.

However, he says that with how short staffed they are, this is not the final answer.

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