ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Lt. James Faunda, who grew up in Eastern Ohio, has been named as commander of the St. Clairsville Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The position opened after Lt. Jeff LaRoche retired in February.
Recently promoted from sergeant to lieutenant, Faunda has been with the state patrol since 1993 and was transferred to the St. Clairsville Post in 2011. Despite being on the promotion list for several years, he indicated that he was surprised by his recent promotion.
"The thing I like about this promotion, I graduated from River High School (in Hannibal) in 1989 and I grew up in Monroe County," said Faunda. "I am familiar with the area. Basically, I am back home. So the fact that I was able to get promoted to the St. Clairsville Post is actually a blessing."
Becoming a law enforcement officer is something that Faunda always wanted to do. He went into the State Patrol Academy after attending the University of Alabama and Belmont Technical College.
"The Ohio State Highway Patrol had one of the best reputations in law enforcement for professionalism," said Faunda. "It's been a very fulfilling career. Just like anything else, it has its up and downs. We don't like going to people's homes and telling them that their family member has been killed in a crash, but we do get a feeling of satisfaction when we remove an impaired driver from the roadway, when we arrest people that are dealing drugs and even beyond that one of our big focal points is service to the public."
In 21 years as a trooper, Faunda has been transferred to several different posts throughout the state of Ohio. He was first assigned to the Milan Post and it was there, he was selected as "Post Trooper of the Year" in 1997. He then was transferred to the Norwalk Post in 1999, where he was selected as "Post Trooper of the Year" in 2001.
Faunda was promoted to sergeant in 2002 and was transferred to the Bowling Green Post. At the Bowling Green Post, he served as assistant post commander. As a sergeant, he served at the Norwalk Post, Bucyrus District Criminal Patrol, Mansfield Dispatch Center and the Steubenville Post.
Faunda said one of the things that impressed him most about the St. Clairsville Post is the working relationships and communications with local law enforcement agencies, and he plans for this to continue. "The thing that impressed me when I came back home is how well the post and all the agencies in Belmont County worked together," Faunda said. "We have a great working relationship with the sheriff's office and all the police departments in Belmont County, and we also have a great relationship with the Monroe County Sheriff's Office in Woodsfield and the Woodsfield Police Department."
He thinks that this is an important because all of these agencies have the same job, which is to remove criminals from our highways, cities and towns.
"If all the agencies don't work together, then that just makes that job that much harder," Faunda said. "We are very fortunate in this area."
Faunda went on to say that every law enforcement agency realizes that it cannot work alone, and each department has resources that can be shared. "For instances, most departments in this county have K-9 Units and while the highway patrol does have K-9 Units, some of those may be a pretty good distance away when we need them, and it's also important that we are open with each other as far as sharing information when it comes to different trends we are seeing."
Faunda believes that the open communication they have is what has made them successful. Faunda also said it is fortunate to have such groups as the Belmont County Drug Task Force that works with them.
He sees reducing the number of alcohol-related fatalities as one of the biggest challenges being faced and pointed out alcohol has been involved in half of the 2013 fatal crashes in Belmont and Monroe counties. Noting he would like that number to drop to zero, he said, "The lower we can get, the better."
"Our troopers are going out and arresting more drunk drivers every day," said Faunda.
As post commander, Faunda's goal is to reduce the amount of criminal activity in the area.
"With the increase of population in Belmont and Monroe counties due to the boom in the gas and oil industry, one of my goals is to reduce the criminal activity that has been increasing in the last couple of years," said Faunda. "Our troopers are focusing more on what we refer to as criminal patrol. Not only are we out there enforcing traffic laws but we are looking for criminals that are using our roadways to transport prescription drugs, narcotics and human trafficking that is becoming a big issue in the United States and the world."
As post commander, Faunda said he will look at the scheduling of troopers. The St. Clairsville Post currently has, along with Faunda, 13 troopers and four sergeants. The Post has 18 uniformed officers, and he plans on looking to schedule more officers when traffic is at its heaviest and where the most arrests, OVI cases and accidents are happening based on the data that is collected.
"Jeff LaRoche has done an outstanding job here. He was great to work for and anybody who would get promoted into this Post after him would have big shoes to fill," said Faunda. "He was the type that would look after his guys and make sure they had everything they needed to perform all the duties that we have."
Van Dyne can be reached at email@example.com.