WILKES-BARRE – Several days after Luzerne County officials said 22 employees were laid off to balance the 2014 budget, the top prosecutor said more money was given to her department to hire three new assistant district attorneys.
Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis told Newswatch 16 that her office desperately needs more help, because of a heavy caseload following a year of violent crime in Wilkes-Barre.
There were 13 homicides in the diamond city in 2013, as well as six additional homicide cases in other parts of Luzerne County.
"We are working very hard to make sure we do everything properly, that a bad guy doesn`t end up back on the streets. My concern is, with the lack of staff within our office, we will make mistake,” said Salavantis. "It has been very difficult prior to these layoffs, getting things done in the County. With 22 more, it`s going to change the morale.”
People who live near the neighborhood where deadly shootings and other crimes happened last year told Newswatch 16 that they support the decision to give the District Attorney’s office more funding.
"It’s sad that people get laid off,” said Mark Oldziewjewski. “They got to cut the budget somewhere. I think we need more to fight crime.”
"They have to get these cases settled and get some of these guys off the street,” said Bill Evans.
Salavantis said she hopes to hire the new prosecutors soon, but the plan could be put on hold, if the incoming Luzerne County council members decide to reopen and change the 2014 budget, when they meet later this month.