Nineteen police chiefs and 10 mayors from Denton County attended the second annual Denton County Mayors Crime Luncheon in Copper Canyon on Jan. 30.
Among the 60 plus attendees were three of our five Denton County Commissioners: Hugh Coleman, Andy Eads, and Ron Marchant.
The featured speaker was newly elected Denton County Sheriff Will Travis, who also happens to be a resident of Copper Canyon for over 20 years.
As professional preparation for his career as our newly elected sheriff, Travis became re-certified by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Education and became Denton County’s first sheriff to complete the state’s three week Jail Certification program. He is also the first Denton County Sheriff with a college degree. Sheriff Travis wears a badge and uniform and intends to go on regular patrols with his fellow deputies.
Sheriff Travis summarized his goals for the Sheriff’s Office for 2013, with effective narcotics enforcement in Denton County being a key element.
He said that heroin has become the most challenging illegal drug, with new trends such as “monkey bar” – which is a mix of heroin and the legal narcotic Xanax.
The Sheriff is in the process of recruiting a new canine drug dog and handler. He also is determined to reduce the incidents of human cargo smugglers transporting victims through Denton County on I-35E and I-35W.
Sheriff Travis is dedicated to identifying and prosecuting pedophiles that prey upon our children in Denton County. The “Internet Crimes Against Children” task-force allows law enforcement to monitor child pedophiles online and their location.
One problem faced by Denton County’s outgoing and incoming sheriffs is a shortage of deputies to cover the 990 square miles of their jurisdiction. Travis has heard complaints about long response times to calls from unincorporated areas like Lantana (FWSD #6 and #7). Several Fresh Water Supply Districts have contracts with Denton County to pay for Deputies that are dedicated to law enforcement in their specific geographical jurisdiction. (This is similar to the contract that Copper Canyon has for two dedicated Sheriff’s Deputies to patrol and respond directly to 911 calls within our Town boundaries.)
Sheriff Travis generously shared his presentation time with three of his chief deputies. Chief Deputy Rex George is the former Chief Investigator for six years for the Denton County District Attorney’s Office. He is personally familiar with ongoing crime issues in Denton County and North Texas in general. Assistant Chief Deputy Roy Davenport continues his outstanding service for 25 years and is currently Jail Administrator of Denton County’s 1400 bed jail. Assistant Chief Deputy Randy Plemons was recruited from McClendon County (Waco) to be the Chief Operations Officer for the Sheriff’s Office. So, Sheriff Travis has wisely combined in his senior staff both “new blood” from other geographic areas in Texas with experienced personnel from our immediate area.
Travis said his preference is to give the first opportunity for advancement to existing personnel within the Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office is a major employer in Denton County with 591 current employees. However, 602 positions are listed for the Sheriff’s Office, so there are still 11 vacancies to fill.
Both Sheriff Travis and County Commissioners Coleman, Eads and Marchant emphasized the importance of the Denton County Jail to our area. It allows towns and cities in our county to use the jail for local inmates and avoid the expense, liability, and personnel required to build and operate a separate containment facility.
Our current Denton County jail has 1400 beds, but is only authorized for a maximum of 1250 inmates. Inmates above that number are farmed out to Wise County. The county is in the process of building a new 384 bed, four story jail addition, which will replace four existing wooden barracks. (Denton County may have the only current “wooden” jail in Texas.) This will gain a net capacity of 192 beds. The jail expansion has been designed as a module. This design will reduce the architectural and engineering expense of adding additional similar modules, as needed with the future expected general population growth in Denton County.
Jail Administrator Roy Davenport said the county is installing advanced technology to “streamline” the booking process. This allows the arresting officers to spend a minimum amount of time at the jail and get back swiftly on patrol in their respective municipalities. There is also a Gang Intelligence Officer dedicated to the Denton County jail facility. And the county saves money on personnel by using non-violent inmate Trustees to perform routine functions in the jail such as collecting recyclable materials.
Commissioner Andy Eads reviewed the county’s policy of using supervised non-violent inmates in crews to clear debris and litter on road right-of-ways and patch asphalt and gravel road potholes. Inmates go through a rigorous background check before they are allowed to work on the road crews. The inmates enjoy this work as a way of getting out-of-doors and leaving the sterile environment of the jail.
The road crews are not paid for their time. However, the road crews do receive an extra “good time credit” for the sentence served. This reduces the inmate’s jail time sentence and reduces the county’s expense for housing them in jail. Inmates still have to support their families while they are incarcerated and also pay for court-ordered restitution to victims of their respective crimes. So, getting out of jail sooner is a win-win solution for all involved. Violent criminals or serious substance abusers or sellers are not eligible for “good time credits.”
Read more in the February issue of The Cross Timbers Gazette.