Mayberry it ain’t
Greene County has about 9,000 residents these days.
Seems like a pretty small population for law enforcement personnel to have much to do. In larger cities, certainly in the great metropolises of the United States, many folks think of law enforcement here in terms of Andy Griffith and Don Knotts in the bucolic Mayberry of bygone TV days.
It’s a far cry from that in rural America today.
Local law officers have their hands full.
Greene County Sheriff Jack Williams recently presented his 2019 annual report to the Greene County board of supervisors. The volume of activity for himself and his deputies is startling.
Civil matters alone kept the sheriff’s office busy much of the time. Sheriff’s deputies served 629 papers in the county and made another 512 attempts to do so. That computes to an average of about three services or attempts per day every day of the year.
They also served 84 warrants and made 18 civil trips and 28 criminal trips during the year.
How about traffic arrests and citations by the sheriff’s office?
The sheriff and deputies issued 699 traffic warnings and 344 traffic citations, in addition to 12 charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI). That’s about three traffic stops a day.
Those are just the actual stops. There were also investigations: 139 for careless driving, 22 for abandoned vehicles and 37 for suspicious vehicles.
The office investigated 97 property damage accidents, 57 vehicle-deer collisions, 21 personal injury accidents, and a traffic fatality.
Numerous other investigations were also required: 91 for theft, 90 for harassment, 74 for criminal mischief, 74 for dog reports, 71 domestic dispute calls, 39 assaults, 39 burglary calls, 38 prowlers and suspicious persons, 36 trespasses, 29 alarms, 20 drug investigations, 16 calls about runaways, 13 for sexual abuse, 11 search warrants, seven child abuse investigations, six for littering, six for open doors, and four unattended deaths.
The office investigated four suicides and another 10 suicide attempts.
Then there were the many occasions where the sheriff and deputies provided assistance: 142 to the Jefferson Police Department, 141 welfare checks, 81 times they assisted motorists, 63 calls helping with livestock, 38 ambulance assists, 37 fires, 21 instances of assistance to the Department of Human Services (DHS), and 13 security checks. They helped with three farm accidents and two funerals.
A geographic breakdown of offenses investigated by the office in 2019 is as follows: Grand Junction 349, Scranton 206, Jefferson 172, Churdan 98, Rippey 62, Paton 31, Dana 10, and four in the county’s parks.
(The sheriff’s office contracts with the six municipalities in the county other than Jefferson to provide law enforcement services there.)
Sheriff’s personnel also spent 34 hours on court matters, either in court itself, on court security, or on depositions and preparation.
Sheriff’s office personnel provide public safety services in Greene County around the clock, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Personnel are on duty on weekends and holidays, day and night.
Many times throughout the year, sheriff’s office personnel transport arrested or convicted persons to and from jails in other counties, especially Boone County, because the Greene County Law Enforcement Center is no longer large enough to meet the county’s needs, or because it fails to meet today’s incarceration standards.
That fact adds cost and time to the duties of the office. The day is coming when Greene County will need to come to grips with its inadequate jail facilities.
The Jefferson Police Department is equally challenged to perform similar functions within the city.
Chief Mark Clouse last month reported to the city council on his staff’s activity for the period of October through December 2019. A partial list from his report finds 719 total calls for service over the three months. They made 669 traffic stops, issuing 321 citations and 10 OWI arrests.
Other categories reported were similar to those of the sheriff’s office. Like the county, Jefferson is served ’round the clock by its police force.
Maybe the biggest challenge for the Jefferson Police Department is retention of its officers. Salaries of the Jefferson police force are well below the state average, and consequently the department has suffered under a 180 percent turnover rate over the past three years. The city council is well aware of that situation, and is working to remedy it.
Much of what local law enforcement personnel do goes unnoticed by the general public. But people need to know that their local officers are continually at work to provide safety and assistance when they’re needed.
Law enforcement officers, county and city, are on the public safety front line for the rest of us. I’m grateful for their service, and they deserve our support.