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RHPD has its own CSI
Albritton and Strickland. - photo by Photo by Ross Blair

When it comes to solving crimes, Detectives Mike Albritton and Dana Strickland of the Richmond Hill Police Department fare better than their peers. Just call them CSI Richmond Hill.

The duo had a 60 percent clearance rate for cases solved out of the 581 cases they worked in 2007, according to RHPD records. In comparison, the national average is around 25 percent.

"They do an outstanding job for the city and I’m very proud of them," RHPD Chief Billy Reynolds said. "Their efficiency in solving a large volume of our criminal cases is one of the reasons our community remains a safe place to live. I rely heavily on both of them."

"Both are very dedicated," RHPD Captain Mark Long said. "I know this because they put in a lot of hours whether it is night or day and they produce results."

Albritton said he and Strickland don't stop at the end of the normal work day if they have leads to follow.

"Time is of the essence after a crime, and it’s not uncommon to be wrapping up the day at two or three in the morning," Albritton said.

They are assigned everything from egging of houses and stolen hubcaps all the way up to homicide – although the city has only had one homicide. Albritton said the city’s low crime rate has allotted the luxury of the unit being able to investigate misdemeanors, which many jurisdictions do not.

Reynolds attributes their success rate to their ability to work as a team.

"We work very well together," Strickland said. "We know each other’s instincts, and I believe our different styles compliment each other. That’s why we often work our cases together. It’s a proven formula that works for us."

Albritton said each have their strengths. He specializes in interrogation while Strickland specializes in crime scene investigation. Strickland said it is not like what you see on popular TV shows like CSI.

"Usually what you see on see on TV is actual stuff that can be done on a crime scene, but – logistically, monetarily – most agencies don’t have that type of equipment. Television exaggerates reality a bit too. For example, you’re not going to get DNA back within an hour; it’s more like six months."

The duo does look to DNA at times. Albritton spoke of a recent armed robbery case at the Knight’s Inn where hair samples helped them prosecute a case. He said this is just one of many methods they employ.

"We’ll subpoena phone records, financial records, medical records – we’ll use the courts to help us get the information we need. For example, you can subpoena phone records to see where someone was located when they were on their phone."

Albritton said the most effective crime-solving method is actually quite simple.

"Anytime we look back at past cases that we solved, it always comes down to talking to people. There’s a lot of follow-through after interviews that can be time consuming and often messy. If a suspect tells us where they dumped some evidence, we’re going to check it out. In some cases, that has led to digging in dumpsters and manholes."

And what kind of crimes are rampant in Richmond Hill?

"Mostly some type of theft; that’s mostly what we work," Albritton said. "Armed robberies are crimes we do get that we work very hard on. We work a lot of convenience store thefts. There are a lot of banks in Richmond Hill, so we work a lot of forgeries and other financial stuff. Chief Reynolds is a stickler on solving missing person cases, so we work relentlessly when we get those."

Albritton said there are many others in the department that have added to the success of his unit.

"We can’t do our job without patrol," Albritton said. "We have to give credit where credit is due. We have the luxury of having five quality officers per shift which allows us the time to properly investigate crimes."

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