Eastern Columbus residents have fought for years for more patrols by the sheriff’s office, and Sheriff Jody Greene said Wednesday (today) that additional coverage is coming.
Greene, Chief Deputy Aaron Herring, and County Manager Eddie Madden, along with Commissioners Ricky Bullard, Jerome McMillian and Laverne Coleman, met with residents in the area in June.
The lack of coverage was one of the major topics of discussion. Rising crime and a lack of deputies were major talking points at similar meetings held by the last two previous sheriffs. Growth and additional traffic through the eastern end of Columbus have led to a rise in crime, as illegal activities spill over from Brunswick and New Hanover into Columbus. Bolton also closed its police department in 2015, choosing to rely on the sheriff’s office for all law enforcement. The number of assigned deputies remained the same.
The new county budget increases the sheriff’s office funding to $8.3 million and allows for more revenues for the department to remain in the sheriff’s coffers. The additional funding from the new board of commissioners elected last fall has allowed Greene and his staff to make some headway on bringing more help to the East End. Commissioner Giles Byrd, whose district includes part of eastern Columbus, cast the sole dissenting vote on the budget in June.
Help is on the way for east, Greene said.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” Greene said in a press release. “We are excited to announce that the new balanced budget, approved by the Board of Commissioners, brings much needed resources for the east end of the county.”
Greene made expanded law enforcement presence in the east a cornerstone of his campaign in 2018. Commissioners cut funding from the sheriff’s office budget in Fiscal 2019 and 2020. Plans for a satellite sheriff’s office in Delco or Riegelwood were also cut.
Prior to the new budget, the release said, there was frequently only one deputy available to work east of a line from U.S. 701 to the Brunswick County border.
“The citizens of this area will now have two deputies, an investigator, and a newly formed special operations unit consisting of 13 deputies,” Greene said. “These sworn individuals will be available to investigate major crimes and narcotics at any given time.”
The sheriff’s office is accepting applications for several open positions, including the new slots, and as soon as those positions are filled, Greene said, “the east end of our county will have eight deputies permanently assigned to the area.”
Greene said he is also continuing to work with state and local leaders to set up a location for a satellite sheriff’s office in the Delco or Riegelwood area. The office would be a full-service facility, so residents would not have to make the 60-plus mile trip to Whiteville to request pistol permits or handle other business with the sheriff’s office.
“Only a few more obstacles stand in the way,” the release said.
Greene said he appreciates the patience of East End citizens, and asked them to “remember that problems evolve over time.
“Therefore, it takes time to fully resolve them,” Green said, “but we are dedicated to see these resolutions through.”