ST. CLAIRSVILLE-The SPII Task Force (Sexual Predator Internet Initiative) held its third annual luncheon on Thursday at Undo's in St. Clairsville. Members of regional law enforcement and judicial agencies attended, as did members of the Cuyahoga County Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, which assists with SPII funding.
Belmont County Court Judge Harry White received a new award from the SPII team in recognition of his service to the community. The award is given in memory and honor of the late Tim Zdanski, Bethesda Police Chief and founder of SPII.
Belmont County Assistant Prosecutor Helen Yonak was recognized for her contributions to SPII's efforts. In her keynote address, Yonak talked about Zdanski's role as a family man and his interest in protecting children and keeping them "on the straight and narrow." She noted that he saw the need for a program like SPII through his work as a school portrait photographer and worked on developing the initiative into "one of the best run, best equipped task forces" with which Yonak has worked.
She concluded by thanking the members of the task force, saying that their continuing drive and quality of membership is a "fitting tribute" to Zdanski.
Bethesda Chief Jeremy Campbell and Penny Zdanski, wife of Tim Zdanski, presented the awards.
Campbell says that the only organizational changes in SPII since Zdanski's passing have been his taking over as commander of the task force and the promotion of Ginger Haring to the position of forensic analyst at the Bethesda Police Department lab. SPII is still visiting organizations and schools for with informational presentations, and they are testing new forensic software at the Bethesda lab. He adds that they are looking at new forensic hardware for cell phones.
Belmont County Prosecutor Chris Berhalter noted that SPII Task Force members agreed that protecting children is a priority and they will continue serving on the task force. Berhalter also says that he is confident about Campbell taking over the helm and his ability to provide quality leadership. "One of Chief Zdanski's traits was his ability to pick quality people to work with and Chief Campbell clearly demonstrates that."
"Chief Zdanski was very supportive of our organization," says Leslie Vassilarous, executive director of Harmony House. "We're very grateful and plan to continue to work with SPII and help in any way we can."
Belmont County Sheriff Fred Thompson summed up the team's general consensus. "Since Tim Zdanski initiated this program, children are safer from internet predators. We WILL continue in his honor."
Valenti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.