Sheriff Carter Says "We're 10 Years Behind"

Recently elected Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter stated that his department is lagging behind other coun­ties in the state when it comes to manpower, technol­ogy, equipment, transportation and even uniforms. “I feel like we’re running 10 years behind everybody,” Carter said as he awaited word on how much of their proposed budget will actually become reality.

Carter said that in order to put the word "public" back in public safety he's going to have to have more funding. According to the county man­ager’s office, public safety has become a smaller and smaller percentage of the overall budget for at least four straight years, with this past years budget being smaller than years previous. However, Sheriff Carter, who took office in December, has his way, the sheriff’s office will have a 14 percent spike in budget in 2007-2008, as he is requesting nearly $700,000 more to run his department than the previous sheriff needed the prior year. “We’re not playing a game, and we’re not being selfish,” said Chief Butler. In regards to more officers, “I’m not asking for four officers because I need two,” said Carter. “I’m asking for four because I need four.” Staffing is the major con­cern for Carter, who said his department covers more citizens and more square mileage than Sanford and Broadway combined, yet his ratios of officers to residents and officers to square miles covered are well below the two incorpo­rated areas. “Having more officers allows us to do more pre­vention patrolling too,” he added. “It’s hard to do that when you’re struggling to answer calls.”

There are other concerns beyond staffing, there are several other challenges fac­ing the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. Technology and equip­ment are two of the biggies, according to Carter. “We’re just trying to get up to speed there,” he said. “We have outdated hand­guns and bullet proof vests. Our uniforms are depleted and wearing thin.” The department could also use upgrades in com­puter equipment, communi­cation and other technologi­cal areas that would help reduce response time. Then there’s pay. “We’re still growing. We’ve got Fort Bragg and the 20,000 or so military personnel coming this way due to the BRAC ... many of which will look to call Lee County their home.”

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