Sheriff's report

ANNUAL REPORT: 2018 calls include one homicide, one robbery, hundreds of assaults

Deputies with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office drove a distance equal to almost a trip and a half from the earth to the moon last year to protect and to serve.

“It is the most miles we have logged since I have been sheriff and the total is up almost 12,000 miles over last year,” says Sheriff Ramsey Bennett. “When you call us, we are going to come to you no matter how far we have to drive and how long it takes to get there.”

Deputies took to the roads in 2018 to respond to calls for help including a homicide, a robbery case, 161 assault cases and 208 stolen property reports in addition to also responding to financial fraud, scam cases and dog calls. Deputies also did public service calls like house watches for those out of town to unlocking car doors and even assisting elderly and frail residents with tire changes.

The Sheriff offered that summary of the previous year in his annual “Report to Pierce County, 2019” a 16-page magazine produced in recent years by Sheriff Bennett as his way of keeping taxpayers informed. The report offers a wealth of information on the work of the Office of the Sheriff, gleaned from arrest records, court charges and financial reports maintained on behalf of the taxpayers. The report can be found as a supplement inside the local area issues of The Blackshear Times this week.

Bennett points out patrolling the county was easier this year with upgrades to PCSO’s vehicle fleet and the ability to use drug forfeiture money and trade-ins to accomplish that feat.

Bennett says nearly one-third of the patrol and transport vehicles for the sheriff’s office have been replaced with new vehicles this year — and Pierce County’s lawbreakers paid the tab.

The sheriff’s office currently runs 23 full-time, on-the-road vehicles and four back-ups including patrol and transport units. Of that total, eight have been purchased using monies collected through fines, forfeitures and seizures.

“I am proud of the fact that a full third of our fleet has been purchased and outfitted at no cost to local taxpayers,” Bennett says. “No taxpayer funds were used to purchase these vehicles.”

Fines are assessed on most criminal and traffic offenses and forfeitures and seizures are monies, property and other assets that are seized from those engaged in illegal activities. The funds totaled $207,500 and were used to purchase the vehicles.

Sheriff Bennett says he has made an effort to use the fines, forfeitures and seizure monies to ease the burden on local taxpayers.

Bennett reports the vehicles have been purchased since he has been in office over the last seven years.

The fleet vehicles purchased with the fine, forfeiture and seizure money include five patrol trucks, a transport van used for taking inmates to and from court, an SUV and a car. The funds were also used to equip and outfit the vehicles.

Additionally, Bennett said converting the fleet to patrol trucks has allowed the sheriff’s office to capitalize on trade-in value when replacing the patrol vehicles — something that hasn’t happened previously in his 28 years in law enforcement.

“Most of the time when it was time to replace patrol vehicles and we asked about trade in, the dealers laughed in our face,” he said. “More often than not the old patrol vehicles had to be sold for scrap.”

Patrol trucks have changed that.

Just this month, Bennett was able to purchase two new patrol trucks valued at $47,000 and only paid $26,800.

“We received $20,000 on two vehicles we traded in,” he said.

Again, the sheriff points out drug forfeiture money covered the expense.

While deputies were on the road, they witnessed an overall droMajor violent crimes including homicides, assaults and robberies — which the sheriff said are all low, per capita already — also fell. p in most major crimes.

While burglary cases were up slightly, financial fraud and traffic accident numbers were all down over 2017.

The sheriff’s annual report includes a wealth of interesting statistics on the work of local law enforcement and Bennett hopes local residents will read the report inserted in this issue of The Times and call him with any questions.

“We appreciate our residents helping us out. The people are very supportive of us at the sheriff’s office and we appreciate that. We need our citizens to help us out by being our eyes and ears,” says Bennett. “We are here to keep you safe through the good times and the bad” says the sheriff. “That’s our mission. It is the same as it’s always been. Your support means a lot to us.”