KNOX COUNTY — Domestic assaults reported to the Knox County Sheriff’s Office increased in the past year while traffic stops decreased, according to Sheriff Tim Carroll. However, the statistics don’t entirely reflect the situation.
Carroll addressed a meeting of the St. George Business Alliance, October 15, and stated that his patrol department now has the full staff needed to assist with the security of 14 communities within its approximate 400-square mile mainland jurisdiction.
Add in the adjacent ocean and the Ridge Islands, Vinalhaven, North Haven, Matinicus, and Isle Au Haut, and the jurisdiction climbs to roughly 1,200 square miles.
The team of 21 sworn law enforcement agents, which includes 11 patrol officers, fields an average of 13,000 calls per year, according to Carroll.
In the past year, the department has carried forth with three fewer patrol positions for most of the year. Another officer was injured during training and was out for six months, and another person was on maternity leave.
As a result, six patrol officers did the work of 11.
Though the community was always provided for, according to Carroll, prioritizing became essential. Routine traffic stops were lessened in importance, leading to the resulting statistic of almost 40% fewer stops.
Staff also includes a five-person detective division split into a detective supervisor, a drug enforcement detective, a crimes against persons detective, a sex crimes detective, and a domestic violence coordinator.
Assaults, domestics, and sex offenses have increased statistically in the county, compared to years past, he said.
Carroll could not state a reason for this uptick, and praised his sex crimes and domestic violence detectives for doing “a super job.” However, Carroll was able to surmise a possibility.
“I think some of the uptick in that is how we are doing business,” he said.
In the past, a person could appear in front of a judge, “make a statement, say their peace, and they get a protection order,” said Carroll. But now, protection orders are being forwarded to the KCSO’s domestic violence detective. That detective is now developing crimes against those accused.
“It’s not just a matter of saying ‘I’m scared of them,’” said Carroll. “There are crimes that have occurred, so we’re holding those people accountable.”
New this year is a now-certified K9 that does tracking. In mid-November, the dog will go through training to be able to detect drugs.
“The culture – the atmosphere – that is in the Sheriff’s Office right now is very good,” he said. “I’m very proud of the staff that’s there. They work hard, and I think they do a fantastic job.”
The patrol department budget is $2.2 million. The department is asking for $55,400 more.
Seventy-eight percent of the requested increase ($43,000) is employee benefits – life, health insurance, etc.
Knox County Jail
Staff of the 70-bed County Jail includes 32 corrections officers and seven staff members. As of October 15, the facility has booked 1,089 people.
“It’s very, very busy,” said Carroll.
According to Carroll, law enforcement agents in general are trying to change the culture, and have taken up the challenge more so in the past year. Carroll is trying to push that even more in Knox County.
“The revolving door policy at the Jail just isn’t working,” he said.
The Jail has a total $3.7 million budget. This year, Carroll is expecting an approximate 4% increase. That 4% equates to approximately $139,628. The benefits – life, health, etc. – is $134,552.
Of the 4% increase, 96% is benefits.