OPINION: Protecting and serving all of Crenshaw County
By: Steven Phillips
In 2011, My wife Shanon and I retired from the U.S. Navy and moved to the town of Rutledge, Alabama where I grew up. I am now the mayor of Rutledge, a job that I am learning as I go.
One of the problems that we have in the Town of Rutledge is people speeding through on Highway 10, Quail Tower Road and our neighborhood roads. We do not have a police force, so we depend on the Crenshaw County Sheriff’s Office to enforce the laws in our town.
I have spoken to the sheriff about this a couple of times, and for a while we will have deputies driving by or sitting and this seems to have a calming effect on the traffic. But most of the time cars and semi trucks roll through Rutledge at more than 60 miles per hour. Since we do not have a police department in Rutledge, we are at the mercy of the sheriff’s office and the state police for enforcing the law.
The state police has two troopers assigned to Crenshaw County, and most of the time they are called out to work the interstate or to investigate traffic accidents. A few years ago there were more than 500 troopers in Alabama and now we have about 260 due to budget cuts. Therefore, we cannot look to the state troopers for much assistance.
The County Sheriff is tasked with law enforcement in the county, and there are approximately eight deputies on the force. With that being said, the city of Luverne and the town of Brantley both have police departments. So, that leaves the towns of Dozier, Glenwood, Petrey, Highland Home and Rutledge for the Sheriff’s department to concentrate on.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 611 square miles in Crenshaw County— of which 2.1 is water, leaving 609 square miles. The city of Luverne covers approximately 15.7 square miles, the town of Brantley covers 3.16 square miles. The towns that do not have police departments cover 9.63 square miles, which leaves approximately 580 square miles —in which approximately half of that is in farm lands and about half of what is left is in timber. That leaves about 200 square miles left for the sheriff’s office to patrol.
Just a few thoughts: Recently, a resident of Rutledge noticed someone around the town barn and called 911, then called me. I went to the barn and approximately two minutes later two Luverne Police Department officers showed up (Thank you Luverne, we in the Town of Rutledge appreciate your assistance). We walked the property, and did not see anyone or anything.
Approximately 15 minutes later, three deputies arrived at the same time. This was about 8 p.m. I asked what took them so long, and was informed that one was at the north end of the county and one was at the south end. Yet, they arrived at the same time. If they came from different places how did they arrive at the same time? Now don’t get me wrong, I am glad that they responded. I’m just curious how all three arrived at once.
There is a deputy assigned to Highland Home School, yet the towns in the county cannot get more visibility? I have also been told that they do not make a lot of money on traffic citations, but I don’t believe that is the reason that you receive tickets. I thought that tickets were issued for breaking the traffic laws not as a source of income. The breakdown for a ticket is: court cost is $150. $43 of that, plus the fine goes to the county general fund. Out of that $35 goes to the jail fund. $8 goes to the county general fund. That seems like a little bit of money. Where as if you just watch the speeders go by, then you aren’t making any money.
I fully understand that the sheriff’s office cannot be everywhere. I understand that we have a limited number of law enforcement officers, but it does seem to me that we could have better coverage in the towns and on the highways with the deputies that we have. Also, something else that the residents of Rutledge are concerned about, there was a murder in the town of Rutledge on June 13, 2016. As far as we the people of Rutledge know, there has not been any progress on the case.
The question is what is the Crenshaw County Sheriff is doing to make life better for the citizens of Crenshaw county?