|San Jacinto News Times - Local News
Copyright 2013 - Polk County Publishing Company
Chief deputy talks about changes, goals and the war on drugs
COLDSPRING – Chief Deputy James Fitch of the San Jacinto County Sheriff's Department told members of the Coldspring/San Jacinto County Chamber of Commerce about changes in the sheriff's department, their goals, responding to calls for help and about his background last week. "There's been a lot of changes in the past year," Fitch said. "A lot of auditing has been going on and yesterday we had a jail inspection, which we passed with no problems or issues." Fitch said they have gone through four audits in a matter of three months. "Our goal is to be community orientated by getting involved," Fitch said. "Most interaction with law enforcement is negative. Our push is to let you know we are just like you," he said. A new addition to the jail facility is a soon-to-be vestibule with a receptionist where visitors will be greeted. Calling it an improvement over the way the department operated in the past, Fitch said until recently visitors were sometimes confused as to where they should go for information once they walked inside the building. "You would have to bend over and talk through a little window at the dispatch office," Fitch said. "Now you will be able to stand upright and talk to a receptionist who will also be answering the phone during normal business hours." The new vestibule, which should be completed within the next two weeks, will eliminate impersonal, recorded greetings that direct callers to voicemail or extensions, he said. "We are here to serve," Fitch said. Speaking of the department's manpower situation, Fitch said it is a struggle to keep deputies because of the low pay. "We are a training ground for deputies who eventually find higher paying jobs in surrounding areas," Fitch said. According to Fitch, a beginning deputy in San Jacinto County makes $28,700 per year, which is not unusual for a lot of places. "Conroe starts out at $45,000 per year. Most people are going to take that and that is why we have a lot of turn-over," Fitch said. With 16 deputies on the streets, patrolling the entire county is tough, according to Fitch. "We are doing what we can in shifts to provide the best coverage," he said, adding, "game wardens and the Department of Public Safety help, but for the most part, we are the law enforcement." Fitch said other counties have the advantage of having cities to help in the incorporated areas. "Here in San Jacinto County, we are it." He said. Discussing the different types of calls for assistance they receive, Fitch said some are related to major crime but a lot of the calls are theft reports, including a high percentage of copper and metal thefts. "We do have a drug problem. We'll never win the war on drugs and methamphetamine is the drug of choice in San Jacinto County," Fitch said. Fitch said he took over the chief deputy job at the sheriff's department two months ago. While his experience includes many years as a peace officer, Fitch said he has a public service background with the Huntsville City Council.