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Sheriff asks commissioners for more deputies and detectives

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

LELAND—With 850 square miles to cover, Brunswick County Sheriff Ronald Hewett says he needs more deputies to patrol roads, more resource officers in the schools and more detectives to investigate cases.

Hewett presented the sheriff’s office budget requests to county commissioners at the board’s retreat Tuesday.

“I understand this might be a tight year,” Hewett said.

But with 10 deputies who cover the county’s 850 square miles, Hewett said more patrol deputies must be on the roads so they can spend more time with victims or complainants when responding to calls.

Patrol deputies now average 20 calls per 12-hour shift, and Hewett says four more deputies on the roads would relieve some of that burden.

Hewett asked commissioners for four additional patrol deputies and the re-assignment of one patrol deputy from another division.

Hewett said decreasing the number of calls each patrol deputies receive will “decrease the response time for each call for service.”

The proposed cost for the personnel and individual equipment is $249,490, and $504,032 for the vehicles and equipment.

The detectives division is also over burdened, he said.

Between Jan. 1, 2003 and Dec. 31, 2007, sheriff’s office detectives investigated 24, 862 criminal cases, which represents a 7.5 percent annual increase.

In 2007 alone, detectives investigated 5,536 cases, which is about 500 cases per detective. Hewett said the number of cases investigated by each detective far exceeds neighboring law enforcement agencies.

Horry County (S.C.) Police detectives average 80-140 cases annually, while the Wilmington Police detectives average 174 cases per year, he said.

An additional detective is needed to allow detectives to investigate their cases more efficiently, Hewett said.

Hewett has also requested a clerical position for the detectives division.

Detectives Capt. Gene Caison now spends up to 40 percent of his time entering data from incident and arrests reports, Hewett said. Hiring a clerical position to enter data in the detectives division would free up Caison to serve as a captain of the detectives division.

The proposed cost for the new detective, the clerical position and equipment is $119,372, with $24,700 proposed for a vehicle and equipment.

In addition to the new deputies, Hewett is seeking money to replace 16 marked patrol vehicles with excessive mileage, which is more than 185,000 miles on the vehicle.

School resource officers

Hewett has asked commissioners to assign an additional school resource officer to each of the county’s three high schools.

“Our schools are in trouble. We need officers at the schools,” he said.

School resource officer salaries are funded through the board of education, but the sheriff’s office pays for the vehicle, equipment and training of the resource officers.

Between July 2007 and January 2008, school resource officers made 160 arrests (students older than 16 years old) and 196 juvenile petitions for students younger than 16, Hewett said.

The arrests and juvenile petitions during that eight-month period “surpassed the previous 12-month total,” Hewett said.

Drug enforcement unit

Hewett said he needs increased funding for the drug enforcement unit. Special funds are needed for drug agents to make controlled buys.

In 2007, the drug enforcement unit seized 2.6 pounds of crack cocaine, 5.5 grams of heroin, 205 pounds of processed marijuana and 190 live marijuana plants.

“The street-level dealers are out there, but I’d rather get the people supplying them,” Hewett said.

SABLE

In the budget, Hewett also asked for $20,000 to appropriate for aviation fuel and flight time for the SABLE unit.

The Southeastern Airborne Law Enforcement is accessible to the sheriff’s office through the Wilmington Police Department. Hewett said the Wilmington Police Department employs two full-time pilots to man the helicopters 24 hours per day