Clay County Sheriff Bobby Deese reported that the amount of property crimes were cut in half during 2019. He attributed this in large part to high visibility patrol.
“That’s a huge reduction in crime,” he said. “That’s 90 percent patrol. You have to get out there to do community policing, nobody’s going to walk up and turn in dope.”
The patrol division has been aggressive about traffic stops. The number of stops climbed from 281 in 2018 to 1,729 last year which reflects an increase of 1,447.
“That’s an average of 33 vehicle stops per week in 2019 as opposed to five per week in 2018,” Deese said. “An increase in visibility and an aggressive approach to street level criminal activity results in more drug seizures and recovery of stolen property. By being proactive and visible, it has a direct effect on the reduction of crime.”
Deese said he thought when they stepped up the traffic stops, people would complain. “They didn’t. I was a little surprised.”
Deese reported the statistical updates from his first year in office during the Feb. 6 county commission meeting to let the public know how sheriff’s office/jail funding was being put to use. He also thanked the commission board for giving them the tools and resources to improve.
“We had a $360,000 increased budget — it’s a huge chunk and this is where it went,” he said.
Regarding drug activity, Deese reported that narcotic offenses had more than doubled in 2019; from 74 to 144 in 2019.
He said larceny/theft had dropped nearly 53 percent and burglary/B&E has dropped nearly 58 percent. “By increasing traffic stops and actively looking for offenders we are able to take more drugs off the street and help prevent other criminal acts,” said Deese.
Other highlights of the report:
• Two hundred more arrests and 358 more criminal charges were made this year over last.
• Evidence seized and recovered: Last year brought in 532 items compared to 280 in 2018. These items are not only illegal substances and evidence, but also recovered stolen property, Deese said.
• In 2019, there were 92 search warrants issued which is 11 more than 2019. He said an average of seven search warrants were issued a month. “For a little town [county] of 10,500 that’s a lot of search warrants,” he said.
• Percentage of closing incidents out by arrest increased. More than half of the incidents were closed out in 2019 but less than half in 2018. “Patrol deputies play a vital role in the initial incident before it’s turned over to investigations,” Deese said.
• Regarding inmates, Deese said they have been an asset as far as community work. “We have good inmates — they like to work,” he said noting that inmates had performed 18,354 hours of labor cutting grass, picking up trash, firewood program, etc. He said records of inmate work activity was not tracked in 2018.
• The jail kitchen produced 95,720 meals in 2019. Of that, 22,676 were for Clay County inmates, the rest were Meals on Wheels and Macon County Detention. The jail is paid for its outside services.
• Inmate transports were higher by 1o in 2019 with 219 transports compared to 209 in 2018. Transport miles increased significantly which Deese said is due in part to local mental health facilities closing and an increase in involuntary commitments from the previous year.
• The number of inmates confined in the Clay County Jail rose from 549 in 2018 to 718 last year.
• Business patrol checks increased by 2,685.
Deese said he will be preparing a statistic report for the public and county commission every January.
Commissioners commended Deese on a job well done. Commissioner Scotty Penland agreed, “Visibility does make a difference.” Commissioner Clay Logan noted, “You’re doing a good job — just get them to raise their hand when they go by — and wave.”
Other business conducted:
An update on the community partnership with Air Methods medical flight program was given by account executive Marcus Lindsey. He said the county is a little over mid-term through the agreement where the county provides free insurance for medical flight services to residents when Air Methods is used.
Lindsey said they had completed 56 transports and saved the county $197,069. He said the county paid $12,750 for those services. He noted among the advantages of the county having this service is that under the Community Partnership Model, the patient is covered no matter where they are as long as transported and billed by Air Methods.
He said Air Methods has a base located within a 15 minute response time and two additional bases with response times of 30-35 minutes. He also cited their excellent working relationship with EMS and local first responder agencies. Their AirCom App is installed at 911 center for rapid flight requests and real-time flight tracking.
Commissioner Scotty Penland noted one drawback. “The only downside is if you’re not available and another one [helicopter service] comes, people may think it’s free. They’re not interested in who the service is, they’re interested in getting to the hospital.”
Commission Randy Nichols noted that the partnership has been successful here especially when you realize a medical flight could cost a resident about $50,000.
“I’ve been involved since the beginning. It’s one of our best accomplishments. I understand you may not get there first,” he said to Lindsey, “but if you do praise the Lord. The cost to the county is minute compared to $50,000.”
In next week’s issue, we’ll continue coverage of the commission meeting with a story about a request to create a Clay County Veterans Park made by our American Legion and VFW Post as well as Travel and Tourism funding.