As is always the case for the law enforcement agency that covers the largest county in Missouri, the Texas County Sheriff’s Department was busy in 2019.
Texas County Sheriff Scott Lindsey said the department had 6,572 total calls for service and road deputies generated 1,105 written reports. The number of reports was less than half than in 2018, but that’s due to a new policy implemented by Lindsey that allows for “minor” calls to be logged without a written report.
“The goal was to be more efficient and not tie up as much of the deputies’ time doing paperwork,” Lindsey said. “It’s not that our calls for service have dropped or crime is down in Texas County. It would be great if it was, but the numbers just reflect our different procedures.”
Lindsey was elected sheriff in November 2018 in a special election and is now in his second full year in the position. He’ll be on the ballot later this year in hopes of being elected to a new four-year term.
Lindsey shared his viewpoints with regard to several of the TCSD’s more interesting statistical data from 2019.
•TCSD personnel fielded 2,401 calls in the public information category.
“That’s a good thing,” Lindsey said. “People have questions, they’re looking for advice or they’re wanting to know something like what the law is for driving an ATV on a county road. Or maybe they have a legal issue and don’t know which way to go with it.
“But I consider these things as important as investigating crime. We’re here to serve the public and provide them information.”
•Deputies responded to 213 “domestic disturbance” calls.
“Domestic violence is a huge issue in Texas County,” Lindsey said, “and 99-percent of it is due to people being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It’s not something everyone wants to recognize, but it’s a problem and it’s not getting better. You might think that through more education and awareness over the years that it would be improving, but it’s an ongoing issue.”
•Deputies responded to 309 animal-related calls.
“Since I began as sheriff, the volume of animal calls that comes in has been a shock to me,” Lindsey said. “There are a lot of dog complaints, and we’re very limited in what we can do with them. We’re talking about rural areas of the county that don’t have leash laws like the city, and the current state statute requires that a dog be on another person’s property for 12 hours or more before we could cite somebody under animal trespass, and I find that to be a pretty high burden.
“We try to mediate these calls the best we can or advise people of what their rights are, but I feel like a lot of people are disappointed after they call. But we can’t create options we don’t have.”
•Deputies responded to 349 calls to assist other law enforcement agencies.
“We help out the cities and the highway patrol,” Lindsey said.
“In my mind, that number is a good thing, because we all should work together and share our resources the best we can.”
•The TCSD investigated one murder in 2019.
“Traditionally, Texas County has averaged one or two homicides each year,” Lindsey said, “so that number is in line with what we’ve seen in the past. We had another case of elderly neglect that might fit the description of a homicide, but it wasn’t the traditional type that occurs through a violent act.
“But when you look at some of the bigger cities in Missouri, it could be a lot worse. St. Louis had five homicides before noon on New Year’s Day, so we feel pretty fortunate. I mean, one is too many, but it could be much worse.”
•Deputies responded to 349 calls about suspicious activity, people or vehicles.
“I think that’s a good thing, too,” Lindsey said. “We want people to call in when they see something that doesn’t look or feel right to them. That’s the public trying to help us out, and I appreciate that and encourage them to report things.”
•TCSD deputies conducted 530 traffic stops in 2019.
“I encourage our officers to get out and look for people who are committing crimes,” Lindsey said. “Most of the people who are doing drugs or stealing have to drive to the locations where they commit those crimes, so if we can intercept them or discourage them from being out and active, I think that’s a good thing as well. Our main focus isn’t necessarily writing traffic tickets, but it’s good when we can gain information about a criminal matter that goes along with a traffic stop.”
HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2019
Last year, the TCSD obtained new uniforms and tactical vests, and more colorful and noticeable graphics were placed on patrol vehicles.
For much of the early part of 2019, the TCSD operated with a road deputy roster below the maximum level of 10. But after the hiring of two new officers in May, the roster was at full capacity the rest of the way (and still is).
“We have a good group of patrol deputies right now,” Lindsey said. “There’s always the chance that someone will leave for more pay, but I feel pretty confident that we have a group that likes working here and wants to stay. I can’t blame somebody who accepts a position that’s better for their family, but we haven’t had much turnover lately.”
Deputies also began using laptop computers with mobile capability that are connected to a cellular network and allow for direct communication with Texas County 911 (which handled the TCSD’s dispatching for the entire year). The units also allow officers to begin reports while out in the field.
“They can add notes to those calls, or if there’s something that doesn’t need to go over the radio they can send it electronically,” Lindsey said. “We’re finally getting to the age of technology that other agencies were ahead of us. The focus of all of our upgrades and changes as far as technology has been to allow deputies to have more time in the field doing the things that help our citizens fight crime.”
TCSD officers were involved in multiple big drug busts in 2019.
“I feel good about the success we had with that,” Lindsey said, “but the drug problem in the United States, in Missouri and in Texas County is so pervasive that keeping up is difficult.”
Lindsey said opioids such as heroin and fentanyl are becoming more common in Texas County.
“It used to be that the opioid crisis seemed to be all around us,” he said, “and that most of the drug users here had a preference for methamphetamine. But that was just luck, and now we’re seeing far more of the opioids and we even had an overdose death due to fentanyl.
“To me, it’s disappointing but not surprising.”
JAIL BOOKINGS INCREASE
There were 1,509 people booked into the Texas County Jail in 2019, up from 1,204 in 2018. But many inmates didn’t stay long.
“We’re seeing more people arrested for offenses and being quickly released by the court system,” Lindsey said. “This is a frustrating trend statewide for law enforcement and law abiding citizens.”
On average, the jail had a daily occupancy of 45 in 2019, down from 56 in 2018.
“I attribute this drop to the ‘bond reform’ rules issued by the Missouri Supreme Court that mandate many accused criminals be released until their court date, some on a reduced bond or others on their own recognizance,” Lindsey said.
Turnover continues to be high in jail personnel.
“That’s a really tough issue,” Lindsey said. “Salary is the main thing, but there are a lot of reasons it’s hard to fill those positions.”
Despite the often-changing faces, Lindsey said the jail is operating smoothly under the guidance of jail administrator Tim Garnica.
“We offer the best we can to the people who work back there,” Lindsey said. “Our core group is really good, and there are a few people who have been there quite a while. But it’s a real challenge to keep those spots filled.”
The TCSD’s phone number is 417-967-4165.
The top 10 types of calls responded to last year by the Texas County Sheriff’s Department
1. Information/assistance – 2,401
2. Traffic stop – 530
3. Suspicious activity/person/vehicle – 349
3. Agency assist – 349
5. Animal issues – 309
6. Stealing – 263
7. Prisoner transport – 237
8. Well-being check – 234
9. Process service – 225
10. Domestic disturbance – 213