GREEN COVE SPRINGS – As the population continues to grow in Clay County, so do the number of calls and crimes for the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.
And with that comes the need for additional resources.
The county’s population grew by more than 4,000 residents to 203,291 from 2017 to 2018. According to the U.S. Census, it’s currently projected at nearly 216,000.
With a just 15 additional deputies compared to 2017, the sheriff’s office is answering a record number of calls, according to the agency’s recently-released annual report.
According to the sheriff’s office, the agency was called 299,948 times in 2017, which led to 5,255 arrests. Last year, the department received 304,627 calls and made 5,931arrests, for an increase of 4,679 calls and 676 arrests.
There were 4,619 inmates booked into the Clay County Jail during 2018.
There currently are about 275 sworn deputies, according to CCSO, and they patrol 644 square miles. Information gathered for the annual report don’t reflect calls and arrests for the city police departments at Green Cove Springs and Orange Park.
Based on population, Clay County currently is 47 deputies short of other counties. The state average for deputies is one for every 1,720 residents. Clay County has one for every 1,488.
“We are challenged by are deficit in deputies, so we intend on seeking a budget increase with the hopes of adding more personnel,” said spokesman and deputy Chris Padgett.
The sheriff’s office had an operating budget of $47,777,499 in 2018 with the bulk – $37,794,691 – going to personnel.
CCSO is working in new areas to spread its footprints. According to the report, it is trying to expand its technology to add more eyes and ears on the street.
According to the report, three primary focuses are the License Plate Leader program, Clay Community Connect and a larger social media audience.
The report states:
“During 2018, the Crime Analysis Unit initiated a License Plate Reader program within Clay County. The cameras read over 1,000,000 license plates in the first ninety days of the program. The cameras played a pivotal role in solving several cases in 2018, including a bank robbery, burglary to autos, a missing person, and an aggravated battery in which an individual was shot. Plans include expanding the system with additional cameras throughout the county.
“Clay Community Connect (C3) is a new program intended to reduce crime and the fear of crime. C3 accomplishes this by establishing relationships with businesses and homeowners who subsequently allow
the Clay County Sheriff’s Office access to cameras installed on their property. The Sheriff’s Office can access the cameras to obtain real-time information about crime as it occurs.”
The agency relies heavily on Facebook and Twitter to warn residents of missing people, traffic accidents and emergencies. It also relies on social media to have the community report crimes, missing persons and wanted fugitives.
The report also included an introduction letter from Sheriff Darryl Daniels. He said, in part:
“As we look forward to 2019, we will be experiencing a large growth in our population. We have housing developments, businesses and the new interstate growing daily. That being said, CCSO will need to grow to keep up with the demands for additional law enforcement services. We will work hard to continue to make Clay County the safest place to live and raise a family. Increasing our staffing, leveraging technology and of course community engagement will be our priority as we work diligently on delivering what is stated in our mission statement: ‘Reduce crime, reduce the fear of crime, and improve the quality of life.’”
The report also revealed:
-The CCSO cleared 95.92-percent of its special victim’s unit cases; 90.84-percent of its robbery/homicide cases; 46.07-percent of its criminal investigation cases; and, 82.72-percent of its financial crime cases.
-A slight decrease in traffic accidents compared to 2017 and fewer arrests for driving under the influence. There were 5,403 reported crashes in 2018 – a reduction of 167 – and 141 DUI arrests – compared to 161 from 2017.
-The Canine Unit added two handlers and an additional dog that dramatically increased the number of arrests. The K9 Unit was involved with 1,752 traffic stops, 31 building and 602 narcotic searches which led to 155 arrests last year, the report stated. In 2017, the K9 Unit was involved in 1,232 traffic stops, 19 building and 472 narcotic searches that led to only 55 arrests.
-There were 3,188 incidents reported at the Clay County Jail, including 1,227 routine cell searches, and 410,391 meals served to inmates.
-The agency was able to hire 125 new employees – and increase of 20 compared to 2017.
-There were 228 official complaints against the office, an increase of 50 compared to the previous year. The biggest increase was for 39 additional policy violations, from 36 to 75.
-There were 22 official disciplinary actions taken against the department, compared to 34 in 2017.
-Other than salaries, the No. 1 expense – $871,821 – for the sheriff’s office was medical and dental services for inmates.
-The Sheriff’s Office wrote 11,210 tickets. Of those, 8,898, or 79.44 percent, were written to white motorists and 1,985 were written to African Americans, or 17.72 percent. Both were about 6 percent higher than the racial percentages of whites and African Americans in the county.
-CCSO’s Facebook page now has nearly 55,000 followers, up from 26,000 in 2017.