Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes said Tuesday drugs are the biggest crime problem in Liberty County as he presented a plan to combat the issue with more drug dogs.
The topic came up when LCSO Chief Deputy Jon Long asked for $46,142 from the county commission. His requested budget amendment was approved unanimously.
“Y’all let me add something right here,” Sikes interjected during discussion. “The No. 1 problem in Liberty County is drugs. It stems back to your robberies, it stems back to your burglaries, it stems back to just about everything. What is the need? Is it more people to go back and respond to what’s happened, or is it let’s try to get a grip on drugs?”
When the fiscal-year 2013 budget was approved, the finance committee and sheriff’s office agreed to defer a $345,954 request for an additional four deputies and four vehicles, Long said. But Tuesday he said the department had shifted its plan to request $43,970 worth of promotions, $5,000 in vehicle upgrades and $20,000 to buy two dogs.
“What we’re asking for is to make some adjustments within the department, promotions and manpower adjustments instead of asking for four more deputies…” Long said.
For a full year, the increased personnel costs would total $43,970. Because FY-2013 is half over, this year it would be $21,142.
Long’s plan is to use $21,142 from fines and forfeitures for personnel and $25,000 from the Office of Economic Adjustment allocation for capital projects.
To support his request, he presented a three-year look at the number and value of citations processed by deputies.
In 2012, the agency processed 9,904 citations for other agencies at a value of $3.14 million and wrote 7,749, totaling $2.5 million. Those numbers were up from 7,654 from other agencies at $2.19 million and 5,777 at $1.54 million first-hand in 2011.
Currently the department has two K-9 units, which is not enough to have a dogs on duty at all times.
“These will be dual-purpose dogs,” Long said. “The main purpose we would use them for is drug detection, but they will also be used in patrol, which includes tracking.”
Commissioner Marion Stevens Sr. guided Long’s presentation by bringing up points that were discussed in a finance committee meeting.
“The reason for having two dogs is we can put two more dogs and have a dog per shift, so if something goes down we don’t have to wait,” Stevens said.
The sheriff said the current arrangement requires K-9 officers to call for backup to take suspects into custody. Adding cages to SUVs would let them drive suspects to jail.
Lt. Shawn Fields, who oversees dog handling, said the sheriff’s office has a kennel capable of holding six dogs.