For good or bad, '09 numbers up for Sheriff's office

ALBANY -- Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul told county commissioners this week that numbers in virtually every category of his operations were up for 2009.

From fingerprint requests and processing to court functions and investigations, the sheriff's office increased operations in almost every department.

"Everything's up," Sproul said at the meeting Monday.

In his annual report to the Dougherty County Commission, Sproul -- who is mandated by the state constitution to defend the courts, serve warrants and other court papers, operate the jail and provide for the general public safety -- said that his department, like many others, is working to manage the increasing workload within the constraints of a dismal economy.

For 2009, the sheriff's office worked 32,000 court functions, served 30,000 civil papers and 9,000 traffic citations for the year.

An increase in court operations and a request from judges to have at least two deputies in the courtroom for each proceeding is forcing Sproul to pull deputies ordinarily used to serve warrants to attend court -- a move that is infringing on his other constitutional duty -- serving arrest warrants.

The report states that 421 court hours were worked in 2009 by deputies who would ordinarily be assigned to warrant service.

As a result, the department's warrant service is only at 62 percent, meaning that roughly one in three warrants went unserved in 2009.

Of the 10,505 warrants filed with the office, roughly 6,000 were actually served, leaving the rest of the offenders out on the street.

The economy also increased the amount of evictions the department processed and enforced in 2009, Sproul said.

The report states evictions were up to 878, which is a direct correlation to the state of the current economy, Sproul said.

The jail, which is far and away the largest portion of the sheriff's budget -- eating $12.4 million of the sheriff's pie last year alone -- also remains one of the area's most well used lodging locale.

In 2009, 18,000 people were processed in an out of the Dougherty County Jail. Of those, 1,900 were transported by deputies for various appointments with 769 making mental health trips.

Currently, 844 inmates are housed at the jail.

Roughly 15 percent of that number are locals who were convicted or pleaded guilty to a crime, but remain at the jail rather than a state prison because of the reticence of the state officials to accept the additional costs, officials say.

That means local property taxpayers are footing the bill instead, to the tune of about $22 per day per inmate.

"I know the state is having problems, but we are too," Commissioner Jack Stone said.

But while the numbers may suggest business is booming on the negative side of the social spectrum for the sheriff's office, it has also increased the amount of time deputies spend at schools and community events educating the public.

The report states that the department participated in 23 community events, taught 1,485 kids through anti-crime and anti-gang initiatives, hosted 115 children in their annual summer camp and helped mentor 35 families during 2009.