WINNSBORO — Placing a car remote with a panic alarm beside one’s bedside table can be great defense against breaking and entering. If a resident hears a suspicious noise in the middle of the night, hitting that alarm can make a potential burglar realize the home is occupied and then cause that criminal to move on.
Nuggets like those were gleaned Tuesday night as a select group of Fairfield County residents and media members attended the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Department’s first ever Citizen’s Academy.
Group dynamics were a major focus for sheriff’s deputies. In some instances, people tend to view situations as society consisting of three groups: citizens, law enforcement and the criminal element. The goal of the academy is to bridge any gaps that might occur between law abiding citizens and law enforcement so society contains two groups: the criminal element and everyone else.
The first class was spent with participants getting to know each other. The six- to eight-week event is being led by Capt. Brad Douglas and Chief Deputy Keith Lewis. Other department leaders participating include Sheriff Herman Young and Capt. Dunstan Padgett with the Patrol Division.
At the end of the event, the inaugural group will provide feedback to help the department in its outreach and education efforts.
“We want to educate citizens about the sheriff’s office and how we make cases,” Lewis said. “We just felt like the people who pay our salaries (taxpayers) should know how we do our job each day.”
Douglas highlighted the trust relationship between the department and the community, particularly if someone has confidential information about a crime or suspect. He also gave background on the department as a whole and the risk the men and women undertake daily.
According to Douglas, the patrol division is the most dangerous division because they handle domestic situations. For patrol officers who are the first on the scene of a domestic disturbance, there are any number of scenarios that can emerge with that officer winding up in harm’s way.
The patrol division consists of one captain, four lieutenants and five deputies. Deputies work 12-hour shifts that alternate from day to night every 28 days. The patrol division investigates all incidents not handled by the criminal investigation division.
Douglas said that in the narcotics and criminal investigation division, they have a plan and the firepower and resources to carry out that plan. Patrol division does not have that luxury since they respond first and then react to situations.
Burglaries and property crimes over $200 are handled by the criminal investigation division due to the large amount of follow-up time those investigations require. The civil process division includes school resource officers and community oriented police programs. It consists of Capt. Frazier Craig, two lieutenants and 11 officers. This department serves civil papers and processes, provides transport of mentally ill patients and provides security at the county court house for general sessions court and family court.
The warrant division serves all warrants including out-of-county warrants. They do inmate pick-ups to transport an inmate to Fairfield from another county and coordinate fugitive apprehension operations and do warrant roundups, where off duty officers help canvass an area to see that a large number of warrants are served in as small amount of time as is possible.
The sheriff’s office also contains four office workers in addition to Terrie Smith, the administrative assistant to Sheriff Herman Young. Collateral duties were discussed like evidence custodians, the dive team headed by Ron Mull and a boat patrol done by community oriented police officers during peak boating season as needed. There is a bloodhound tracking team, where patrol and narcotics officers devote extra time to working with the blood hounds.
Douglas said the officers do an exceptional job with the dogs and that he’d put the FCSD team up against SLED’s any day. The community oriented police COPS program also was touched upon, with its Crime Watch, Home Alone and Kids Camp programs.
Citizens learned about the high rate of case closure at FCSD — 57 percent versus just 28 percent on average in the state. Close out means that a case is concluded by arrest or other means, such as there not being enough evidence to try a case.
Citizens were interested in burglaries in the county. Douglas also advised that if someone is home, even home alone, and a stranger comes to the door, they should do something to let the person know the home is occupied.
A child telling a strange person through the door that their parent is in the shower or someone hitting the panic button on a car alarm are two good techniques. Of course, if one feels there is a threat to his or her safety, they should call law enforcement immediately. Some thieves will go door to door and kick in the doors of unoccupied homes for quick snatch and grab robberies. The fear is that a door might be kicked in and a thief will come upon an unsuspecting resident and do them bodily harm.