Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $150,000)
The need to effectively combat violent crime in rural areas of the United States has been an often hard-fought and sometimes easily ignored issue facing small law enforcement agencies such as the Armstrong County Sheriff’s Office. Often, these agencies find themselves without the proper staffing, funding, training, and attention required to carry out day to day tasks that much larger agencies do with ease. With the influx into the communities of individuals with mental illnesses, officers find themselves faced with people in crisis with no clear way to handle them. Violent crime has spiked, yet the officers and agencies have remained behind the curve. By definition, Armstrong County, located in the Texas panhandle, is comprised of the City of Claude, the community of Washburn, the community of Wayside, and the community of Goodnight. Altogether, the Armstrong County Sheriff’s Office, manned by the Sheriff, three full-time deputies, and four full-time dispatcher/jailers covers 914 square miles and services approximately 1,900 residents. In doing so, the budget provided by the County is stretched as thin as one can imagine. With the addition of upgraded software that could connect the Sheriff’s Office with the Volunteer Fire Department and EMS services as well as with the District/County Clerk’s Office and the Justice of The Peace Office to streamline dispatching, file sharing, court documents, and jail and citation information, the offices could maintain better communication. Adding new desktop computers and mobile data terminals would allow dispatchers to send deputies real time updates and tracking information at a faster pace, allowing for better response time to calls for service and maintain safety. Purchasing yearly memberships to websites such as TransUnion and Accurint would allow the Sheriff and the deputies to track down more useful information pertaining to wanted individuals, such as last known addresses, vehicle information, phone numbers, relatives, and frequented social media sites, thus serving more warrants. The purchase of simple game cameras with SD cards allows farmers and ranchers who comprise approximately 80% of the county the ability to have security camera options that have not been available to date and would allow deputies to work closely with them to prevent theft and drug issues in the most rural of areas. Bola Wraps and Mental Health First Aid classes provide alternative ways to handle even the most violent offenders or mentally ill individuals. Adults and children alike would benefit from the funds received.