A month into the new year, Delaware County Sheriff Russell Martin is hoping 2020 will be one of growth and improvement for his office.
Looking back on 2019, Martin said the sheriff’s office saw much the same amount of reports as it did the previous year, but he was encouraged by some figures.
“Our burglaries are down 20%,” Martin said. “Theft from vehicles are also down 28%. I think that’s encouraging. It’s hard to put a finger on why that’s happening. We’d like to take credit for what we’re doing, but I think the community has done a good job of reporting suspicious activity.”
Martin added home security and surveillance systems helped deputies catch a number of suspects in 2019, and he said even a few arrests in cases like that can have a large impact.
“Most crime is committed by a few people,” Martin said. “We’ve been more specific and targeted to catch those offenders, which has been good for everybody.”
Martin said domestic violence calls remain one of the most common calls for deputies.
“We responded to 146 domestic violence calls,” he said. “That’s stayed about the same over the last three years. Domestic violence is still a top three call for us. We opened up Turning Point in 2019 and that’s been a huge (asset).”
Martin said the sheriff’s office took reports of a little over 20 fatal drug overdoses in 2019, but he said the numbers aren’t fully reported yet because more lab results are needed before a full determination can be made.
“Those numbers are similar to 2018,” Martin said. “The only difference now is these overdoses are mostly fentanyl.”
Martin said the biggest change on the horizon for the office this year will be a change in facilities. Currently, the sheriff’s office operates out of three locations: the jail on U.S. Route 42 north of town; the administrative building located at 49 N. Sandusky St. in Delaware; and a small substation at the Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities, which is located at 7991 Columbus Pike, Lewis Center.
Last year, Delaware County purchased the Delaware Area Career Center’s former North Campus, located at 1610 state Route 521. Martin said his office has begun the process of planning to expand into that facility.
“We’ve been in preliminary conversations and planning with architects, and we are most hopeful that the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office will have a new standalone sheriff’s office on that campus property in the next year and a half,” he said.
Martin added the new office will house the administrative staff currently on Sandusky Street and will serve as the hub to patrol deputies. He said there are no plans to build a new jail, adding jail staff will expand into the offices at the jail after the move. The substation at the DCBDD will be unaffected, Martin said.
“This is a great opportunity to consolidate most of our working group into one sheriff’s office,” Martin said. “We’re on the cusp of new facilities, something that’s been overdue for this office for three decades … Because of the growth over the last three decades, it’s really necessary that we provide facilities. These men and women come to work everyday, and they don’t even have a locker room where they can change.”
Martin said he’s hoping the county breaks ground on the renovations in 2020.
2019 was a year of growth for the sheriff’s office, Martin reported. He said that in 2019, the office hired 46 employees as a result of attrition and retirements. Martin said the office gained a total of 15 new employees at the end of the year.
“The face and years of experience in this office will begin to change dramatically over the next couple years,” Martin said. “We’ve added more supervision to oversee, mentor, and develop a younger workforce. That’s been a focus for the last year and a half. We continue to train more of our supervisors and management team in leadership and development, and that’s helped us continue to move the culture forward here in professionalizing the office.”
Martin said 2020 will mark the end of his first elected term in the office, and he will be on the ballot again in November.
“When I came here eight years ago, I said there’s no reason we couldn’t and shouldn’t be one of the finest sheriff’s offices in the state of Ohio,” Martin said. “I do think we are recognized among our peers as one of the best sheriff’s offices in Ohio.”