Deputies to provide

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 4, 2001

full-time protection


Staff Writer

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Those living in rural areas of Pike County will soon have around-the-clock protection.

On Friday, Gov. Don Siegelman awarded $44,700 to help the Pike County Sheriff’s Department put another deputy on patrol.

Sheriff Russell Thomas said the funds will provide a deputy and patrol car to ensure Pike County is protected 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

At this time, the sheriff’s department does not have an officer on duty after 1 a.m.

When calls or complaints are received overnight, a deputy must be paged at home.

The grant funding will change that by allowing the county to hire a deputy for the third shift, which will increase response time and provide protection to residents 24 hours a day.

"For the first time in Pike County’s history, we will be able to provide around-the-clock protection to citizens," Thomas said when notified his department had received the grant. "We’ve had to stagger shifts to work into the night because of the lack of personnel."

After first being elected, Thomas set several goals.

"This is one of those goals," he said of having deputies on duty around-the-clock. "This will aid in making us better and stronger."

Thomas said the fact two robberies have been reported in the past few weeks is evidence enough of the need. The first incident was on Sept. 21 in the Springhill Community and the second was at Huk-A-Buk on Oct. 17.

A number of arrests have been made in crystal methamphetamine cases.

"We’re being consumed by those," Thomas said of the drug cases. "Our workload is tremendous."

"Citizens need the services and protection of on-duty law enforcement officers at all hours," Siegelman said when making the announcement. "I am pleased to provide funds for an additional deputy and patrol car to make Pike County safer for its residents."

Thomas expressed appreciation to Siegelman for being "pro law enforcement" and "extremely generous" with the money he’s given to Pike County.

Last year, the sheriff’s department received $115,000 and more money has helped outfit the 12th Judicial Drug Task Force.

"Without these funds, we wouldn’t be able to provide the services and protection we

do," Thomas said.

Although funding has been "drastically" cut by the Pike County Commission, he said the county has an "exceptional" clearance rate on cases because of dedicated and proud employees and hopes to make further improvements with the addition of a deputy and patrol unit.

Currently, the Pike County Sheriff’s Department has 15 sworn officers, including the sheriff. The grant money will increase that number to 16.

Thomas acknowledged everyone is having funding problems and said Pike County "was successful in obtaining this grant when a lot of counties did not," especially considering the county has now received funding in back-to-back years.

The Pike County Commission has committed $4,966 in matching funds for the grant made available to the state through a program of the U.S. Department of Justice and administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

In addition to the support from the govenrmental entities, Thomas said the citizens of Pike County have played a major role in the department’s success and pledged his department’s continued efforts.

"We will continue to build upon what we have built," Thomas said.