Fearing cuts to St. Lawrence County budget, Sheriff Wells says now not the time to cut his department
By CRAIG FREILICH
CANTON -- St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells says now is not the time to cut law enforcement personnel from his department, especially in light of increasing drug crime.The St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators is being asked to cut millions of dollars from next year’s budget to balance expenditures and taxes, and among items under consideration are personnel cuts at the county Sheriff's Office.
But Wells said a substantial reduction would mean the loss of the Drug Task Force when the drug problem in the county is the worst he has seen "in years.
"It's not the time to start cutting law enforcement in St. Lawrence County," Wells said, pointing to a spike in drug crimes due to opiate prescription drugs abuse.
"We could use five more drug task force officers now," he said.
He said that there is a misperception that increased activity by the federal Border Patrol duplicates what his deputies and investigators do, but he says "they have no state powers. They can't respond to an accident scene, for instance."
Nor can they or any other police agency take up the sheriff's core mission, which is transport of prisoners and delivery of court orders. Well says that duty takes up 75 percent of the time of his two dozen uniformed deputies and investigators.
And he said the state police cannot graduate enough state troopers to keep up with retirements, so they are not in a position to take up the work his deputies are doing if the number of his employees is cut.
He said in the last year his office has fielded 10,000 complaints.