Last year, the Liberty County sheriff’s dispatchers answered 54,219 calls for assistance from citizens, up from the 46,432 calls in 2020. In 2021, Liberty County sheriff’s deputies responded to 39,455 calls, a significant number for a department made up of 79 law enforcement officers.
The high number of calls creates a reactive, not proactive, response from sheriff’s deputies.
“It leaves us no time to stop and talk, communicate and develop relationships,” Sheriff Bobby Rader said.
LCSO dispatchers field calls for the sheriff’s office, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Parks and Wildlife, six constable’s offices, Daisetta Police Department, Plum Grove Police Department, 14 volunteer fire departments, EMS service and Hazmat.
Rader shared the statistics during a Lunch & Learn event hosted by the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Jan. 13, at New Work Family Worship Center in Liberty.
“Every law enforcement officer at the Sheriff’s Office takes an oath to protect and serve the citizens of this county, and we do that,” said Rader, adding that the responsibility for the sheriff’s office is seven days a week, 24 hours per day, 365 days per year without a holiday.
Rapid growth of the county is putting a strain on all County resources, including the sheriff’s office.
“Using an estimate of 100,000 as the population of the county and subtracting 28,000 for the cities of Cleveland, Daisetta, Dayton and Liberty, that leaves 72,000 residents outside of the city limits and 10 deputies for every 10,000 citizens outside the city limits. Per shift that is one deputy for every 7,200 residents,” Rader said.
Counties of comparable size have an average of 16 deputies per 10,000 residents, said Rader, adding that in the cities of Liberty, Dayton and Cleveland, there are 15-16 officers per 10,000 residents.
“Maybe when I-99 is finished and more businesses come to Liberty County, we will get more tax money and be able to hire more deputies, and give them better pay,” Rader said.
On Oct. 1, 2020, the sheriff’s office took over operations of the county jail, which previously was managed by private jail contractors. At that time, the jail had failed inspections from the Jail Commission for the five previous years.
“We worked and got it passed,” Rader said.
The 281-inmate jail has 72 full-time and three part-time employees. The jail is frequently over capacity, which requires the County to contract for jail beds with other facilities in Fort Bend, Jefferson, Polk, Hardin and Montgomery counties.
A new jail will eventually be located on the grounds of the law enforcement center that is under construction on SH 146 north of Liberty, but for now the old jail will have to fulfill the needs of the county, Rader said.
“We hope to be in the new 41,932 square-foot law enforcement center by August of this year. There are also plans to build a substation in the subdivisions in the Plum Grove area that will house the interdiction team, Pct. 6 Constable’s Office and the Permit Department,” Rader said.
The County is also looking toward building another substation in the River Ranch subdivision south of Dayton.
“Tentative plans are to share that facility with Dayton Police Department,” Rader said.