Neither town has its own police force and both have asked the county for help. Their councils have offered the sheriff’s office buildings to serve as substations which would be manned by a deputy permanently assigned there.
With limited manpower that’s already stretched thin, the sheriff’s office is unable to grant these requests. It will, however, make use of the buildings for law enforcement activities giving the towns at least half of their requested loaves.
That’s not enough.
Lockhart’s substation would be located near the town hall an area that in recent years has become the scene of a great deal of criminal activity. Between the town hall and the substation is the town’s basketball court and public parking area. The town’s community park/playground are next door to the town hall. These facilities are supposed to be for public recreation and family outings but in recent years have attracted a decidedly unwanted crowd.
Drug dealers, vandals and other criminals have apparently found the area to be quite conducive to their activities. They don’t have to worry about the cop on the beat coming by to roust them because there isn’t one. Yes, residents can call 911 or the sheriff’s office but by the time a deputy gets there the hoodlums have slithered back into their holes to wait until the coast is clear. Then it’s back to business as usual, selling drugs, destroying property and generally making the community unpleasant and unsafe.
That’s sad because the mayor, council and people of Lockhart have done a great deal in recent years to improve their community. From new infrastructure to the new park/playground to efforts at general cleanup and beautification and fund-raisers for other community improvements, Lockhart has been working to make itself a better place to live. Those efforts should not be undermined by hoodlums allowed to run wild due to a lack of a law enforcement.
Carlisle has also worked to improve itself, hosting a social at the town hall for its elderly residents; assisting the Salvation Army in distributing food to needy families; and helping bring an ethanol plant to the county. These positive developments have been overshadowed by a recent incident involving gang violence. Many of the nearly 30 people arrested in connection with the shooting aren’t even from Carlisle, they just made it the latest battlefield of their criminal feud. Would they have done so had there been a deputy on the duty at the town hall and/or patrolling the streets?
What makes this really tragic is that Carlisle and Lockhart are usually low-crime areas. No community is completely free of crime but small towns where everybody knows everybody are less likely to produce the kind of crime as larger, more anonymous urban areas. Carlisle and Lockhart have benefited from this and it would be a shame to see it lost.
The sheriff’s office does its best to protect and serve Carlisle and Lockhart. It’s hampered, however, by a lack of resources, personnel and by the sheer size of this county. It needs more deputies and equipment to establish a permanent presence in Carlisle and Lockhart while fully protecting the rest of the county.
This means more money and that’s probably not going to happen given the tight budget year the county is facing. Next year, the sheriff’s office should ask Union Council for money to establish fully operational substations in Lockhart and Carlisle and council should give it to them. Otherwise Lockhart and Carlisle could change from pleasant, forward-looking communities into sanctuaries for hoodlums. That would cost this county a lot more than the money we’d spend on a couple of extra deputies.