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Sheriff’s Office expands districts to reduce response times

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Denton County Sheriff’s deputies will soon begin patrolling six districts across Denton County to reduce response times to calls in unincorporated areas, which are experiencing significant growth, according to county officials.

The change from the current four-district outline followed recent approval by Denton County Commissioners to allow the hiring of six additional deputies at a projected cost of $903,060. The cost of each deputy was estimated at $74,683 plus $75,602 in supplies, gasoline and equipment including a fully-equipped vehicle.

Sheriff Will Travis said he sought 10 officers initially while the county’s budget office recommended three.

“This is a real partnership between the commissioners and the sheriff’s department so we can realize the need and phase it in,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Andy Eads. “There’s overall growth and this splits it up,” he said, referring to the six-district plan. “We’re addressing the growth coming out of a recession.”

By dividing the county’s existing four districts into six smaller regions and assigning a deputy to patrol each district, response times would be significantly reduced, said Randy Plemons, assistant chief deputy of operations for the sheriff’s office.

“With I-35 (Interstate 35E) construction and high traffic, calls for service at peak traffic times could delay response” under the current system, Plemons said. Having deputies in the six districts would eliminate the need to navigate the interstate construction to respond to calls. In addition, in high priority calls such as incidents involving firearms, a deputy has to await backup before engaging in the situation, he said.

The plan is to have a corporal and sergeant in charge of the deputies roving through the districts to be available for backup as needed, Plemmons said.

Denton County covers an estimated 951.8 square miles. Of that, the county covers 538.3 square miles with the remaining 413.5 square miles within city limits. In 2013, Denton County Sheriff’s Office received 14,187 calls for service with an average response time of 14 minutes. Projections for 2014 call for 14,900 calls for service and a response time of 15 minutes. By 2015, estimates include 15,500 calls for service with a 16-minute response time.

“Our response times concern us as much as everyone else,” said Chief Deputy Rex George.

The heaviest number of calls for service is in the southwest and northeast portions of Denton County where significant growth already is underway, George said. Both regions are expected to see a rapid increase in population with the development of additional fresh water districts in the northeast and developments already underway in the southwest. Estimates are the population in Denton County will increase an estimated 15 percent from the 2010 census report, according to sheriff’s officials.

“Eventually, we want to transition into substations in the southwest and northeast to reduce response times by half,” George said. “This gives us an opportunity to be more strategic and look at strategies down the road.”

Assigning deputies to specific districts will also have other benefits, Plemons said, adding deputies would then become more familiar with their assigned areas through regular patrols.

“It’s really old-fashioned community policing,” he said.

Travis recalled concerns among Lantana residents who were seeing an increase in certain crimes in their neighborhoods. Travis said he talked with residents about crime prevention and soon, reports of crime in the community dropped substantially.

“With community policing, if you do that well, you’ll see crime go down,” Travis said.

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