Having the proper equipment and training has led to an increase of arrests by Bell County sheriff’s deputies, according to the Bell County sheriff.
Those factors fuel the hunger those deputies already have to find criminals, Sheriff Eddy Lange said.
The Special Crimes Unit, which was added in 2013, also finds more of those criminals, Lange said.
Deputies arrested 266 offenders in 2012 and 40 of those were in connection with felonies. Of the 333 arrests in 2013, 92 were for felony offenses, according to statistics provided by Deputy Chief Chuck Cox.
Deputies made 64 arrests in the first two months of 2014, and 14 were in connection with felonies, statistics showed.
The department recently arrested five area residents in connection with several vehicle burglaries after a resident reported suspicious activity in the area.
“Most of the car burglaries in the county are crimes of opportunity,” Lange said.
“The cars are unlocked, and burglars are just opening the doors and taking what they find,” spokesman Lt. Donnie Adams said.
But the department is too short-staffed to be very proactive. Instead they must be more reactive, Lange said.
“In a typical city, you might have one officer for every 550 residents,” Lange said. “By the time the unincorporated parts of Bell County are added in, we have one deputy for every 6,000 residents. That’s because we have such a large geographical area to cover.”
The department is divided into three patrol districts — north, southeast and southwest. The southwest district is historically the busiest, Adams said.
“We need a fourth district, but that would take another four deputies. It’s time now to look at staffing and salary issues. The county is doing well, but the commissioners are historically frugal,” said Lange, a former commissioner himself. “But that also keeps the county in good financial shape when other counties are not.”
More field deputies are needed, Lange said.
The sheriff’s department is now in the process of retrofitting old patrol cars with camera systems, but that is a difficult task because every car has to be re-engineered, Adams said.
On the positive side, more jailers will be hired for the reopening of the central jail, Lange said. He said the county had 100 applicants for the 20-plus positions that will be available.
The department is more visible to the public since 13 Chevy Tahoes with more distinctive colors and markings were added to the vehicles the department uses, Lange said.