The Transylvania Times -

Sheriff Talks Recruitment, COVID-19, Crime Numbers -Brevard NC


Last updated 5/11/2020 at 12:28pm

Sheriff David Mahoney

Sheriff David Mahoney said he no longer feels his hand being near the "panic button" when it comes to deputy recruitment and retention for his office.

Mahoney was speaking during the recent Transylvania County Board of Commissioners' meeting, where he gave his semi-annual report.

During last year's report, Mahoney talked about the "historic lows" of those interested in a law enforcement career but today that no longer seems to be the case. He attributed the turnaround in "no small part" to the commissioners backing a pay study and the new compensation plan that was implemented. Among other incentives were the county's financial help for Sheriff's Office deputies seeking further education.

Mahoney's office is currently fully staffed with full-time employees but is still trying to recruit some part-time positions. He said in his travels around the state there are many law enforcement agencies that are not fully staffed.

Like other areas of life, COVID-19 has impacted the Sheriff's Office. Until the outbreak, the office was on track to exceed budgeted revenue for housing inmates from other counties and the Statewide Misdemeanant Confine-ment Program (SMCP), which manages the housing, transportation and medical expenses of state inmates convicted of a misdemeanor and sentenced to more than 90 days in county jails. Mahoney said his office made its projected numbers and he doesn't believe there will be a revenue shortfall.

Among the mitigation efforts for COVID-19 are the return of inmates to the counties in which they reside and limiting the number of SMCP inmates into the detention center.

A year ago, the county detention center had an average daily population of 79 inmates. A month ago it was 56 and a week before the commissioners' meeting it was 47.

Another impact attrib-uted partly to COVID-19 is the recent increase in domestic violence cases. Last year, comm-issioners approved hiring a domestic violence invest-igator.

From July 1, 2018, to Dec. 31, 2018, the Sheriff's Office responded to 52 domestic violence calls and made nine arrests.

From July 1, 2019, to Dec. 31, 2019, the Sheriff's Office responded to 48 domestic violence calls and made 23 arrests.

Mahoney said the increase in arrests was partly down to getting more information out in the public through the investigator position and better cooperation with domestic violence agency partners.

"Sadly in the last 60 days, I think quarantine has really taken a toll," he said. "There is just no way around that."

In the 30 days prior to the commissioners' mee-ting, the Sheriff's Office responded to 11 domestic violence calls and in the past 60 days the office has responded to 44 disturbance calls.

"To say that folks are getting a little restless and anxious to return to normal is an understatement," Mahoney said.

Commissioner David Guice said he believed the increase in alcohol sales was also having an impact.

"In investigations," Mahoney replied, "that is what we call a clue."

In the detention center in response to COVID-19, Mahoney said, his office has also taken "aggressive steps to prevent COVID-19 from spreading" by quarantining new inmates, for one.

As far as personal protective equipment (PPE), Mahoney said his deputies have had to be "creative," while his office has had "incredible community support" through homemade masks, donated hand sanitizer and lots of encouragement.

Crime Numbers

Mahoney reported that a comparison between the first quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of this year shows a 29 percent decrease in overall crime in the county.

Mahoney attributes this to a lot of factors, including people staying home and "trying to behave."

Crime in Comparison

The following are the numbers reported for several types of crime during the first quarters of 2019 and 2020 in the county.

The first number comes from 2019:

•Assaults (44/33);

•Sex offenses (18/6);

•Arson (1/1);

•Burglary/B&E (23/18);

•Larceny (74/41);

•Fraud (20/17); and

•Drug offenses (255/205).

The Sheriff's Office has also had access to new analytical data software that allows comparing Transyl-vania County's crime numbers to peer agencies nationwide serving pop-ulations between 30,000 and 35,000.

The following are peer agency comparisons between July 1, 2019, and April 20, 2020. The first number is Transylvania County:

•Murder (0/1);

•Rape (7/9);

•Robbery (0/10);

•Aggravated Assault (14/35);

•Arson (3/2);

•Burglary/B&E (42/89);

•Larceny (77/359);

•Theft from building (17/21);

•Identity theft (13/8); and

•Motor vehicle theft (14/43).

Mahoney said the county always has high numbers in identity theft crimes because of its "target rich environment."

He said his office works every day to provide information, especially to seniors, about scams.

His office is also working with county staff to start geocoding calls for service and locate "heat maps" for where the calls for service are coming from.

In a response to a question from Comm-issioner Page Lemel about drug offenses, Mahoney said it is a "never-ending battle."

He said drug use in the county has transitioned over the years from marijuana to cocaine, to crack cocaine to methamphetamine, and to prescription pills.

"Fortunately, in large part, we have been able to avoid the heroin epidemic," he said.

The county's Western end seems to have a "bigger pocket" of meth-amphetamine use, he said, while prescription drugs abuse is more prevalent in the other end of the county.

He warned that dynamic could change in two months, for example.

Guice said he hoped the new data could be used to address addiction problems. There is a difference between someone selling drugs to make a profit and someone with an addiction, he said, noting there can be mental health or other issues associated with someone's addiction.

Mahoney said his office is working on a program to help inmates address substance abuse, financial decisions, domestic violence and work barriers.

A survey conducted by Brevard College students, he said, found 74 percent of inmates self-identified as having either a mental health issue or substance abuse problem.

The goal is to help inmates make "better decisions."

Mahoney's office is also looking at applying for a grant to help pay for a case manager.

A Brevard College psychology and sociology graduate is working with the Sheriff's Office part time on case management with inmates, including providing an initial assessment and helping to get connected with the necessary agencies after release.


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