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Sheriff’s Corner: Celebrating a banner year with volunteers

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The year 2012 goes down in the history of the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office as a record year for contributions by dedicated citizen volunteers.

The Volunteer Services Program contributed 13,717 hours at a value of $210,826 to the operations of our office. These dedicated citizens performed duties in 12 functional areas across the full spectrum of our operations.

Administrative services include answering phones and greeting the public at our main office and two substations, working with our administrative staff on filing, processing of gun permits, entering data of traffic stops, recording arrest reports and organizing detective files with dedicated support for senior officers.

The Citizens Patrol operates three marked patrol cars with scheduled four-hour patrol shifts countywide. Two people volunteer teams operate in specific planned patrol zones. These volunteers, known as V.O.I.C.E. (Volunteer Observers Impacting Community Efforts), serve as additional eyes and ears in the community to observe, report and aid in deterring criminal activity. They are also trained and available to assist our deputies with traffic control, escort duties and stranded motorists.

In 2012, volunteers performed 397 patrols covering 36,184 miles.

Volunteers also work with deputies at the main public entrance to our detention center and courthouse. They free sworn personnel for other duties by assisting in performing access control, screening and providing information to the public.

Volunteers assist with in-service and basic law enforcement training exercises conducted by our office in the form of role players. They perform the same support, plus administrative and record-keeping, for our Citizens Academy conducted two to three times a year.

They accompany deputies while transporting involuntarily commitment patients in lieu of a second deputy. This approach provides a dedicated male or female volunteer to be paired with each road patrol squad, which eliminates the need for a second deputy to be out of the county for all or part of a shift.

In March 2012, the Sheriff’s Office Chaplain Corps was established with the Rev. Brad Ferguson appointed as the chief chaplain.

By May, Ferguson added five additional volunteer chaplains from churches throughout Brunswick County. The mission of the Chaplain Corps is to provide spiritual support to victims of crime and their families, sheriff’s office staff and volunteers.

From March through December these dedicated volunteers donated 381 hours responding to 41 critical incidents and 14 hospital calls. They performed eight counseling sessions and attended or conducted six funerals including one for a volunteer.

In July 2012, the sheriff’s office assumed responsibility for county animal services. Several of our volunteers assisted with the formation of the Animal Protective Services (APS) overall volunteer program while performing in other volunteer capacities.

These volunteers worked more than 650 hours in the last six months of the year and, along with the staff, were responsible for the implementation of a dedicated volunteer support program.

Nearly 200 additional volunteers, devoted solely to APS, provided more than 3,900 hours from July through December.

Community outreach, along with administrative support, has been the linchpin of our volunteer program. There is virtually never a community event, parade, festival or celebration in which one or more of our volunteers does not either work with a deputy or, in some cases, by themselves representing the sheriff’s office.

Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) classes are taught by a trained deputy in every middle school in the county. With students’ and parents’ consent, our volunteers assist that deputy in mentoring and monitoring teacher-identified, at-risk children throughout the school year.

Our office operates one helicopter with a volunteer who is the primary observer. This volunteer operates the Forward Looking Infrared Radar (FLIR) system, assists with the maintenance of the aircraft, and has been instrumental in training other deputies as observers and FLIR operators.

An unsolved-cases team of retired and highly experienced criminal investigators assists our detective division by reviewing and analyzing old cases for new approaches or leads that might be used to potentially close these cases.

In addition another experienced volunteer assists in the fraud and financial crimes area by reviewing and categorizing these cases for additional follow-up.

The volunteer efforts in 2012 amounted to an estimated 6.6 man-years. We certainly are more effective because of the dedication and support of our 119 volunteers and six volunteer chaplains.

Without a supportive management and devoted volunteer management team, a volunteer program such as ours would not function. Of our 119 volunteers, 45 (37.8 percent) performed 100 or more hours in the year. The range of support among these people was from 101.5 to 1,174 hours.

A full 2012 annual report is available on our website, www.brunswicksheriff.com.