Caldwell Sheriff candidates talk issues

Apr. 30, 2014 @ 05:54 PM

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The two candidates for Caldwell County sheriff met Thursday at the Alden E. Starnes Administration building in downtown Lenoir, as the first day of early voting was going strong in the next room, for an informational forum that will be played on Caldwell TV.

The first question asked candidates to prioritize which of the four areas they see as the most important and why.

Sheriff Alan Jones said that patrolling comes first, jails second, civil papers third and courtroom security fourth. Jones mentioned that since 2007, the number of calls for service has increased by 19 percent for his 28 officers that patrol the county. For jails, Jones noted that the department makes more than 3,000 arrests per year, and that since 2010 four of his deputies have served 32,000 civil papers.

Lance Wilson, an N.C. Highway Patrol trooper, said all of the areas were equally important, but that as sheriff, he would make sure that each is properly maintained at the highest level, saying that training would help improve patrols and the civil division, and that a strong working partnership with the DA and other agencies would improve operations at the jail.

The candidates were then asked about the office’s budgeting challenges.

Jones said that he has given $1.5 million back to the county in his years as sheriff, and that cross-training employees to do other jobs and utilizing the department’s reserve officers has helped with that goal.

Wilson said the sheriff must take a proactive, common-sense approach to the budget, seeking additional funds through grants and reaping the benefits of large seizures.

The next question was about establishing a plan for taking advantage of the ever-changing technology in the sheriff’s department.

Wilson said the department must formulate a plan that keeps up with technology, which is being used for crime more and more. He said he will be assigning personell to a research and development position, taking a proactive approach and seeking to capitalize on technology opportunities from national and state agencies.

Jones spoke of ways his department has already been using technology, including how under his leadership, the department did away with in-car cameras, opting for on-body cameras, saying it is working well, saving money and giving the department a technological advantage as well as a technology that helps track sexual predators and the house arrest system.

The next topic for discussion was overcrowding at the county jail.

Jones said it’s important to have a working relationship with the DA’s office and to make sure that cases get completed, saying that each officer works about 30 or 40 cases at a time, which begin to back up. He also spoke about the county’s house arrest system, which under his tenure has gone from one to two officers handling cases for house arrest, with 31 people currently under house arrest, and 10 waiting.

Wilson said that the crowded jails are likely the effect of a lack of beneficial programs and unification, and that the sheriff must establish and maintain a strong working relationship with the DA, providing strong cases in a timely fashion. He added that he is in favor of the house arrest program and that the sheriff's office should look into alternative programs to expedite the process.