New Delaware County Sheriff Jeffrey Balzer said this week that his biggest goal in his new role is to keep Delaware County a safe place to live and work.
Balzer has been with the DCSO since 2016 and was formally appointed sheriff last month following the retirement of Russell Martin in April.
He said Tuesday the county is very different than it was when he moved here decades ago.
“We live in a community that’s changing,” Balzer said. “When I moved to Delaware in 1986, it was very rural then. … The population was around 56,000, and now estimates are around 230,000. The southern half of the county has become very suburbanized.”
Balzer said the county has many of the same issues that Columbus has, particularly crime and thefts, but not as frequently or at the same scale. Balzer said he wants to make sure the county remains a safe place.
“My biggest goal is to try and keep this a great community,” he said. “People want to live in Delaware County because it is safe. They can raise their family here. We have great schools. We have great communities and parks. An important part of that is feeling safe.”
To that end, Balzer said he will continue working with the Delaware County commissioners and the county’s township trustees to make sure the DCSO has sufficient staffing.
Balzer said a staffing challenge facing the office comes from schools. He explained the DCSO provides school resource officers to the Delaware Area Career Center as well as to Buckeye Valley, Big Walnut and Olentangy local schools. In total, there are 17 SROs.
“That’s a pretty big commitment,” Balzer said. “We are working with schools to make sure we’ve got sufficient deputies available for that. We probably have the most SROs of any agency around central Ohio. We’ve got great partnerships with the schools, and one of our priorities is to keep that safe as well.”
Balzer said the office has also been asked to participate in an Organized Retail Crime Task Force to combat trends of thefts from businesses.
“(That’s) well worthwhile because that affects locations in Delaware County,” he said. “We’ve got to work with our retail merchants and our partners in the business community so we can find and arrest these people.”
Balzer said cooperation is key in combating crime in the county.
“We’re very fortunate in Delaware County,” he said. “We’ve got a supportive community and supportive commissioners, but we must continuously be on guard. We got to work with our partners, we can’t do it alone. When people commit crimes, they don’t look at boundaries. It’s very important that we work with our partners all across the spectrum to make sure we work together to keep our community safe.”
Balzer said his office’s new facility on state Route 521 will improve the DCSO’s services. The office, he added, currently operates out of several buildings, including the Delaware County Jail on U.S. Route 42, an administrative office on North Sandusky Street, and a patrol substation on U.S. 23. Balzer said the current facilities don’t even allow for large meetings because there’s no space big enough for more than a dozen or so people.
“(The new facility) is going to be great,” Balzer said. “We have so outgrown (our facilities), so we’re going to try and bring people together.”
Balzer said the new building will allow for large gatherings, law enforcement trainings, events, and will provide new space for deputies to do physical fitness and tactical training.
The DCSO is also working on several accreditations and certifications that Balzer hopes the office achieves.
“We are on track to hopefully become accredited,” he said. “I always tell people the reason we do this is not for a sticker or logo, it’s because it’s industry best practices. I believe our citizens deserve the best law enforcement and the best jail, and that’s what we’re trying to provide. I don’t want them to get satisfied. … (I want to) keep pushing forward.”
Balzer said he has been in law enforcement for 39 years, and being sheriff is a different type of responsibility from being a deputy or patrol officer.
“My job has changed over the years,” he said. “When I became a law enforcement officer, I was out there on the streets, responding to calls, arresting people. I used to say, ‘I was specialist in finding short-term solutions to long-term problems.’ It’s changed over the years. Now my role is to support the people who are out there doing that every day.”
Balzer added the job on the street is more nuanced now, and his role is to make sure his employees are supported and the community is safe.
“We’ve got more resources to try and connect people,” Balzer said. “My job is to make sure that the deputies, dispatchers, corrections officers, and the whole staff has the resources they need to do the job and to make sure the community gets the service they want. My role is to make sure everybody gets what they need, the community feels safe, and all our employees feel supported so they can do their job.”
Hiring good people is also an important part of his new job.
“You want to pick the best people for the positions,” Balzer said, adding the sheriff’s office has an extensive background search and evaluation process. “(We) make sure it’s a good fit for us and the person who is getting the job. … We expect our employees to treat people with dignity and respect.”
Balzer said he sees being the sheriff as more than a job and is looking forward to the future.
“This is exciting for me,” he said. “I’ve been in law enforcement for 39 years this fall. I’ve been fortunate to live in Delaware County for 37 of those years. It’s not just a job. We raised our kids in Delaware County, and I’ve been a member of the community the whole time. I’m still excited to go out and talk to the community. I got to do my first parade (in Powell). I really enjoyed that. I hope the voters will want to keep me again next year, but this is my way of paying back the community.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG. Additional reporting in this story came from Lauren Gulden.