By Brad Johnson
ELKINS - The Randolph County Sheriff's Office - with help from the West Virginia State Police - is now providing police coverage all night each day of the week, officials announced Thursday.
Randolph County Sheriff Mark Brady said two deputies patrol in separate vehicles on "the midnight shift" five days a week, while the Elkins detachment of the state police handles the remaining two days.
"We've created a 24-hour coverage, and it's the first time we've ever done it in Randolph County," Brady told the Randolph County Commission during its regular meeting Thursday. "This is the first time we've actually had officers working the roads after midnight for quite some time."
"They've been out for several months now," Brady said, adding that he'd held off on announcing the extended coverage until Thursday. "I just wanted to get a feel for how it's working and get input back from the citizens. The business community and the residents have given us very positive feedback."
The 24-hour coverage was made possible by the County Commission's allocating funds to hire new deputies in 2013, Brady said.
The public's desire for night patrols was made clear to Brady during his 2012 campaign for sheriff, he told The Inter-Mountain after Thursday's meeting.
"People wanted more of a law enforcement presence in the community, and more coverage at night," Brady said. "The county had never been able to provide that due to not having enough deputies to fill those positions."
The sheriff praised the County Commission for being receptive to his request to hire more deputies.
"They had the same thought that I did," Brady said. "This is the taxpayers' money and this is how they want it to be spent."
Brady said the county's investment in the new deputies is already paying benefits. In 2013, his office investigated 5,213 calls, up 22 percent from 2012, he told commissioners. A total of 300 criminal cases resulted from those calls, an increase of 11 percent. From those cases, 157 arrests were made, up 17 percent from the previous year.
His office issued 263 traffic citations last year, a 32 percent increase from 2012, Brady said. Deputies issued 113 criminal citations, a 3 percent increase.
However, Brady said his officers are also "being very fair" to residents, as 625 warning citations were issued last year, a 275 percent increase.
"Deputies are trying to get residents to comply without costing them money out of their pockets," Brady said. "I was glad to see that number increasing."
The sheriff praised the Elkins detachment of the state police, the Elkins Police Department and Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Parker for working closely with his department in "a good team effort."
The sheriff's office currently has 11 deputies. In the last year, the County Commission also provided funds to hire two new court security officers, which has freed up the deputies to focus on criminal investigations, Brady said.
"I think it's great that you have 24-hour service," Commission President Chris See told Brady.
Commissioner Mike Taylor said he thinks the hiring of the court security officers and the new 24-hour coverage are among "the biggest accomplishments we've been able to do in many years."