Col. David Hines, Hanover sheriff, is thankful the county administration restored funding to three frozen deputy positions in the proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget. While this would bring law enforcement staffing to 2008 levels, Hines’ department will still be down six law enforcement deputies and four courts services officers from what the sheriff feels he needs to meet current demands.
The Sheriff’s Office’s proposed FY14 budget is $20.49 million, up 2.2 percent from the current year’s $20.04 million. Rising expenditures—such as health insurance and Virginia Retirement System costs—have been eating away at the department’s operational funds.
The proposed Court Services budget is $1.42 million, and the proposed Animal Control budget is just under $1 million.
“Last year we stated that current funding levels are not sustainable, not for the upcoming years,” Hines told the Board of Supervisors at its March 13 meeting.
“Now as we plan together, we understand there is a proposed modest increase to our 2014 operational budget. I have to tell you, this is a much-needed first step. However, measures will still need to be taken as we look at long-range sustainability,” he continued.
Hines cited several recent accomplishments of the Sheriff’s Office, such as achieving both state and international reaccreditation and being one of only three law enforcement agencies to do so.
He noted that volunteers contributed 9,379 hours to the Hanover Sheriff’s Office last year, providing an estimated value of $211,965.
Hanover’s 2012 crime rate remained low compared to the region. The crime rate represents the number of citizens victimized by crime for every 100,000 citizens.
Chesterfield County’s crime rate was 2,677. Henrico’s was 2,711. The City of Richmond’s was 5,132.
Hanover’s crime rate was 1,055 last year, a 9 percent drop.
The department’s clearance rate indicates the percentage of reported crimes that were solved in a year. Hanover’s rate was 65.5 percent in 2012, which is a slight decrease from 66 percent in 2011 and 68.3 percent in 2010.
“As our staffing levels continue to remain at 2008 numbers, our clearance rate has now reduced to near 2008 levels,” Hines said. The 2008 clearance rate was 64 percent.
Still, this far exceeds the national average of 22 percent.
“This is extremely important and requires dedicated and highly trained law enforcement personnel to achieve such a high rate,” Hines said.
He shared several other crime statistics, which, he noted, “will never come close to adequately sharing with you the impact each of them can have on those who have been victimized.”
In 2012, larcenies fell by 11 percent to 843 reported incidents. Motor vehicle thefts fell by 8 percent to 44 incidents. Arsons increased 100 percent to four incidents. Burglaries fell 22 percent to 97 incidents.
Aggravated assaults increased 34 percent to 47 incidents. Robberies increased 200 percent to 18 incidents. Rapes fell 11 percent to eight incidents. Homicides increased 150 percent to five incidents.
“Although crime is down within the county, our violent crime has increased, and it has not increased dramatically, but it has increased,” Hines said.
He said Hanover is the physically largest county in the Metro-Richmond area, but it has the lowest number of officers per square mile—0.43. Chesterfield has 1.1, Henrico 2.4, and Richmond 12.1.
The Hanover Sheriff’s Office’s cost per capita is $199.01, which is higher than Chesterfield’s $179.53 and lower than Henrico’s $204.71 and Richmond’s $413.86.
Hines said his department made 173,527 total citizen contacts in 2012. In that time, the department received 827 commendations from residents and four founded complaints.
“If Hanover County Sheriff’s Office traded on the open stock market, your broker would advise you to buy it,” Hines said.
“The challenge with unsustainable budgets is that we will fall behind if adequate funding is not allocated, and I’m not speaking about future shortfalls. We’re experiencing budget shortfalls now and have officers working with equipment that needs replacing,” he said.
The Sheriff’s Office provides security to the local courts. As demands on the court system increase, the security presence needs to increase, Hines said.
Other activities are increasing in intensity, such as processing concealed weapon permits, solicitor permits, Freedom of Information Act requests, and subpoena duces requests.
Abuse and exploitation of children and the elderly are also on the rise.
“We need to be prepared to protect these two vulnerable groups in our community in such a way as to stop this emerging trend,” Hines said.
He said that increased commercial growth and high-density residential growth would increase the workload of law enforcement.
“There’s nothing wrong with commercial growth. There’s nothing wrong with residential growth. But it does cause a challenge,” Hines said.
“We are thankful for the modest increase in our operational budget, and I truly do mean that. I know times are tough. And we realize that future discussions will need to take place to address long-term needs, as this budget is not sustainable,” he said.
“We know we must be careful and good stewards with our fiscal spending. We know how uncontrolled spending will leave our children and our children’s children with our debts. However, there is also a legacy of an unsafe community we may leave to our children and their children by not wisely budgeting for needed safety today and tomorrow.”
Hines noted, “Our cost of doing business has increased. Our budget has not increased. There is a difference.”