To keep up with Carroll County's growth, the sheriff's office has reorganized its patrol areas and will add two more deputies and replace outdated equipment, authorities said.
With state budget restrictions preventing more state troopers from being added to the Westminster barracks, the sheriff's deputies are poised to assume more responsibility as the county's second-largest police force, with 55 deputies.
The sheriff's office will put into place several initiatives - including new patrol districts - that sheriff's officials said will help the department serve more than 163,000 county residents.
The 2005 fiscal year begins today with the sheriff's new budget at $8.1 million, $5 million of which has been allocated to the detention center - which also falls under Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning's department.
To better cover the county, the sheriff's office recently divided patrol areas into northern and southern districts, said Col. Robert L. Keefer, chief deputy of sheriff services. Lieutenants will oversee two deputies assigned to each district, which is further divided into quadrants.
"We're going to be able to respond better to calls and back up state police," Keefer said.
The sheriff's office has hired one of three new deputies - a former Washington, D.C., metropolitan police officer. That will bring the total number of deputies to 57.
"We need those three officers to get to the minimum of one officer per thousand residents," Keefer said.
Carroll has one of the lowest numbers of police officers per capita in the state at 1.3 per 1,000.
The department is also hiring a civilian to manage property evidence, which will save the sheriff's office overtime charges since a deputy currently handles that responsibility, the sheriff's office said.
The sheriff's office is going to purchase 15 new vehicles for about $295,000 to replace vehicles that have been driven in excess of 100,000 miles, Keefer said. Some vehicles are approaching 200,000 miles. The old cars will be turned over to the county for rehabilitation.
Most of the new cars - 12 - are Ford Crown Victoria Interceptors with cruise control, traction control and heated mirrors. Two are Ford Taurus sedans and one is a Ford Expedition sport utility vehicle that will be used for hauling training materials and ammunition. The Expedition will likely be assigned to the department's Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) officer, Keefer said.
Keefer said three of the new cars, which will be assigned to the new deputies, are additions to the department's fleet. The salaries of the three deputies and their vehicles will total $225,000.
The new cars are equipped with heavy-duty suspension, brakes, a V8 engine and an enhanced electrical system to handle the wear and tear of 24-hour use.
County commissioners approved an additional $87,000 to outfit the cars with items such as bodyguard partitions, shotgun racks, gun safes and medical kits.
The sheriff's office also is working with the county in looking for a new location for its administrative offices, which are on Court Street in Westminster. Keefer said that space is so cramped that janitor's closets have been converted into offices.
County officials said a possible site for the sheriff's office is the vacant New Windsor Middle School. The county has set aside $4.2 million for relocating the office.