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Sheriff commissions staffing study

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In August, Denton County Sheriff Will Travis will ask County Commissioners for 10 additional deputies to be included in the department’s 2014-2015 budget to enhance service in Lantana and other areas of unincorporated Denton County.

Travis has joined with the University of North Texas’ Criminal Justice department to conduct a study to examine how the sheriff’s department uses its current resources, how it stacks up to other nearby or comparable police departments and how the new deputies would benefit Denton County.

As with many other police departments, the sheriff’s office ranks its calls from 1-4, with 1 being a top priority. Most police departments are able to respond to Priority 1 calls– life-threatening emergencies and major crimes in progress– within five to six minutes. Currently, the sheriff’s department responds to Priority 1 calls in about 25 to 30 minutes, depending on the location of the nearest squad car.

In Highland Village and Flower Mound– areas with much less ground to cover– police departments have five and 10 officers, respectively, on patrol for every shift. Denton County currently only has the resources to have five to six deputies per shift; eight, if it is a holiday weekend.

Numbers like these raise worry among citizens. And, while Travis said he has done his best in his 16 months in office, the need for more deputies is pressing.

“We’re not staffed efficiently and effectively, and we know that,” Travis said. “We have five or six deputies on a shift to cover 900 square miles. That’s just not adequate for what we do and the size of the county.”

That is where the UNT study comes in. Within the next month or so, Travis and his department will present the findings to County Judge Mary Horn. He is hopeful that the study will provide the extra push to get the budget needed for 10 additional deputies.

“We’re giving them lots of statistics,” Travis said. “It’s going to be in-depth to no end.”

Travis expects that the study will reinforce what he’s been saying for a while now; that Denton County really needs more deputies on patrol.

“Hopefully [the study] will be our complete justification on why we need more officers,” Travis said.

Travis has special interest in making sure that a new beat (a deputy’s designated patrol area) is created in Lantana. With the community expanding so rapidly, he said that there are more opportunities for crime to occur.

In the meantime, Travis has obtained two patrol vehicles that will be used to step-up community policing efforts and deter “crimes of opportunity” in Lantana, including making sure citizens close their garage doors and lock their cars. Deputies will knock on doors to urge homeowners to encourage them to make smart decisions regarding their safety.

“We’re trying to be highly visible and available to the community,” Travis said. “Basically, answer any questions an individual might have as far as crime prevention is concerned.”

Travis is optimistic about what the outcome of the study and its results will yield in the future for Lantana residents. Until then, he said that his department will continue to do the best it can with what it has.

“We’re not by any means in the red,” said Travis. “We’re doing great as a county, we’re very stable. The part we just need to catch up on a little more is public safety.”

 

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