MESSAGE FROM THE SHERIFF:
Dear Citizens of Liberty County,
On the first anniversary of taking the Oath of Office as Sheriff, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all again for entrusting me with this duty. Serving as your Sheriff has been a humbling experience and I can assure you is a responsibility I do not take lightly. I would like to take this opportunity to discuss with you some of our accomplishments in 2017, as well as our goals for the year to come.
The year 2017 was an eventful one for our Sheriff’s Office. From January 1 – December 31 our Law Enforcement Division responded to over 9,400 calls for service, conducted 3,710 business and house security checks, performed 1,289 traffic stops and made 393 arrests.
As I was campaigning for office, and since being elected, I have been continuously asked to take action against drugs in our county. I promised the citizens I would take a hard stand against individuals who seek to bring drugs into our community and sell drugs on our streets. With my staff, I formulated a three-pronged strategy to attack the drug epidemic sweeping out streets. First, we targeted users who make the drug-trade profitable to low level dealers and often victimize other citizens by stealing to support their habits. Our ultimate goal for these individuals is to get them the help they need to get clean, and back into our community as productive members. Second, we attacked street-level dealers who are responsible for pushing drugs into our neighborhoods. Finally, we understand that criminals aren’t bound by city, county, or state boundaries. We have begun actively working with all our surrounding law enforcement partners at the local, state, and federal levels to continue pursuing higher level drug distributors before their product makes it to our streets. I am pleased to inform you that in 2017, we conducted over 112 drug investigations resulting in 148 arrests. That’s an increase of 52% in the number of drug investigations from 2016. Although we have improved, we are far from finished. As we begin 2018, I intended to continue this pursuit of drug crime in our county through intelligence-based deployment of resources and utilizing progressive enforcement techniques.
2017 was also a very eventful year in our county jail. My staff applied for and my office received a special legislative appropriation from the state for $145,000.00. This money has been dedicated to remodeling the old portion of our county jail which, until 2017, had still used old steel bars and a combination of two and six men cells to hold prisoners. This technique of securing prisoners is obsolete, and it creates many dangers to the correctional officers responsible for patrolling the area, the inmates housed in the area, and is a very inefficient use of square footage. We have been working diligently all year using inmate labor to convert this area into an open-bay dorm. This area of the jail with the old cell system had a capacity of 18 inmates. Now, with the new open-bay design, this same area has a capacity for 28 inmates as well as new shower and toilet facilities compliant with disability accessibility standards and the Florida Model Jail Standards.
Also in 2017 I began providing county jail inmates to the City of Bristol Public Works Department. On average, two inmates are sent with a City of Bristol employee each day to perform right-of-way maintenance and similar work. This labor, which is free to the City of Bristol, saves the city approximately $25,000.00 per year in labor costs. In January of 2017, I also restored the program of providing one inmate crew to the Liberty County Road and Bridge Department primarily for cemetery maintenance or other similar tasks. This inmate crew, averaging three inmates each day at no cost to the Board of County Commissioners, is estimated to have saved the County $37,500.00 in labor costs in 2017. Also this year, our inmates began working on a community service project restoring old bicycles for distribution to children in our community. This year, partnering with Love for Liberty and other community organizations, we were able to provide 40 bikes for kids in our county.
As we look forward into 2018 I am excited about the future of Liberty County and of our Sheriff’s Office. Early in this New Year, my office will be moving to the old Health Department facility on Central Avenue. This move will not only increase the square footage for operations of the office, but also place the Sheriff’s Office in a more updated and secure facility that will accommodate the growth of our Sheriff’s Office into the future. Also in 2018, my staff is working to create a Pre-Trial Release Program which will help get deserving inmates out of our jail back into the community under special supervision. This program is expected to not only lower the jail population, and therefore the cost of operation of the jail, but also allow individuals who have been arrested the opportunity to maintain their jobs and personal lives. As we push ahead into 2018, I would like to thank all of you, for your support of my office and of my staff. I would also like to thank the members of the Board of County Commissioners who have supported the Sheriff’s Office and shared my vision in recognizing the need for proactive law enforcement in Liberty County.
If my office can be of any assistance to you, do not hesitate to contact us. Best wishes to you and your family in 2018.
Eddie Joe White
Sheriff, Liberty County