Mansfield Police Chief Keith Porch speaks at the 10-year anniversary of the North Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force press conference.

MANSFIELD -- Every so often a victim of a crime will tell the Richland County Prosecutor's office the offender has left the state.

When that happens, prosecutors tell those concerned victims, with confidence, "We've got this thing called the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force and they'll find them."

"You guys always rise to the occasion," RIchland County Prosecutor Gary Bishop said Wednesday at the 10-year anniversary celebration of the Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force. "And we thank you for that."

The task force, which started in 2009, has investigated 5,373 cases, Richland County Sheriff Steve Sheldon said.

"At first, I wasn't sure if was going to succeed, but it has beaten all expectations," Sheldon, who is credited with the construction of the task force, said. "It's been unbelievable how well this has worked."

The Richland County division of the NOVFTF includes Ashland City Probation, Ashland Police Department, Bucyrus Police Department, Crestline Police Department, Galion Police Department, Huron County Sheriff's Office, Lexington Police Department, Mansfield City Probation, Mansfield Police Department, Ohio Adult Parole Authority, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Ontario Police Department, Plymouth Police Department, Richland County Adult Probation, Richland County Sherrif's Office, Shelby Police Department, United States Marshals Service United States Secret Service and the Wiliard Police Department.

There are currently five full-time task force officers and 35 part-time officers.

In Dec. 2009, the full-time Task Force worked its first major case.

Kevin Dye was wanted for the 2009 fire bombing of the Mansfield Municipal Court building and was wanted by the Mansfield Police Department. The Richland County Division quickly aided in the case working with MPD detective bureau and the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms department to catch the fugitive.

Dye was arrested on Dec. 15, 2009.

Other major cases included Walter Renz and Linda (Blehar) Buckner, Deshawn Dowdell and Shawn Christy

"Day-in and day-out they work 5,300 cases," Sheldon said. "Over 50 of them have been big murder cases.

"The biggest thing that sticks out in my mind about the Violent Fugitive Task Force is that we can go anywhere. If someone does something wrong in Richland County and thinks they can get away with it by going to another state -- they're wrong. We're going to find them. That's the biggest thing I like about the task force."

MPD chief Keith Porch said he was impressed with the task force's ability to keep all communities safe, not just Mansfield and Richland County. 

He discussed the strong numbers of drug offenders captured by drug sweeps, completed by the task force.

"Mansfield does not have the capacity to do that alone. That goes for every (law enforcement department) that contributes to the task force," Porch said. "I would hate to see what it would be like without the task force. We'd have 1,000 warrants out.

"The point I want to make is that you, Sheriff Sheldon, are the reason for this success."

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Staff Reporter

Noah Jones is host to The Open Mic Podcast -- available on Apple Podcasts! He is the crime, education and music reporter for Richland Source. He is a native of St. Louis, Missouri and a giant Cardinals fan.