COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Assistant District Attorney Kristy Dugan is now officially Columbus' arson prosecutor.
"Arson is a big problem in our community obviously. We've had a number of cases recently. It causes not only a lot of property damage but a threat to human life so this is important and I'm glad I have this position," Dugan told News Leader 9.
She already has extensive knowledge of the law but now, Dugan is learning specifically about fires that are intentionally set. She's trained with agencies like the ATF and is going to fire scenes with local investigators.
Having specialized prosecutors like Dugan in her office was one of District Attorney Julia Slater's promises to voters when she campaigned for the job.
"When you have someone who is specialized in a particular area, they come across issues in cases and the more cases they work in that area, the more issues they have come across and the better able they are to deal with things that come up in trials or as they prepare for trials," Slater explained.
"It's very important for her and for Public Safety to have someone like her who will learn and develop an understanding of what we deal with in a fire. When one of our investigators takes the stand describing a fire scene, it's important for that prosecutor to understand what they're describing for the jury," added Assistant Fire Chief Jerry Fountain of Columbus Fire and EMS.
"I think that if I have a specialized prosecutor that has already done research in the area and has already been to schools to learn about a specialized area, they can move those cases more quickly and get to a resolution," Slater added.
"It's to prevent people from doing it simply because they're going to get caught and they're going to be prosecuted to the fullest extent," said Fountain of Dugan's position.
The District Attorney says her office also has specialized prosecutors designated to cyber crimes and the local sex offender registry.
Kristy Dugan will handle cases in Columbus and act as a resource in arson cases in outlying counties.