By Elise Franco
Police detectives and students will have direct access to each other when school begins next week, said Austintown Police Chief Bob Gavalier.
Detective Sgt. Kathy Dina and Detective Sgt. Jeff Toth, who also is the school district’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer, will move into an office at Austintown Middle School within the next two weeks.
Gavalier said moving the juvenile division onto school grounds was an idea he tossed around with AMS principals for about a year before it came to fruition.
James Penk, assistant principal at AMS, said office space recently opened up in the school, and the police department took advantage.
Gavalier said this setup will give the officers and students direct access to one another. He said both Dina and Toth have worked closely with students in the past.
“At least one of them will be at AMS at any given time,” he said. “The rapport that Kathy and Jeff have formed with students helps us with investigations ... and the school is looking at it as having an officer there at all times.”
Fitch High School retains three Austintown police officers, two fulltime and one part time.
Gavalier said neither officers’ job description will change, and Dina will continue to work juvenile cases outside of the school district.
“[Dina] will come into the department each morning to pick up new reports,” he said. “She’ll be able to work cases from her office at [AMS].”
The chief said case files she’s not working on will remain secured at the police department.
“I think it will be a good thing,” he said. “We’re going to try it for a year and see how things go.”
Penk said the district is looking forward to collaborating with the police department.
“We’re very excited to get an officer into Austintown Middle School on a full-time basis,” he said.