Sheriff’s outposts at 3 area schools

Area students have noticed an increased presence from area law enforcement in recent years, but that presence will be become even more tangible this year as the Washington County Sheriff’s Office sets up outpost offices in three local schools, with more planned.

The offices-currently located in Newport Elementary, Waterford High School and Warren High School-will not be staffed full-time. Rather, the outposts will have the dual benefit of giving officers a place to do office work while out in the county and simultaneously increasing their visibility in schools and availability to students and staff, said Washington County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Troy Hawkins.

“When we started looking at what an officer’s daily activity is, we found we have a tremendous amount of paperwork throughout the day. So instead of having an deputy sitting here in the (Marietta) office or sitting in a cruiser doing paperwork, we decided we could kill two birds with one stone,” said Hawkins.

The offices will help further the department’s goal of having an increased presence in area schools while making productivity much more obtainable, he said.

That increased presence is what makes the arrangement ideal for the school districts, said Wolf Creek Superintendent Bob Caldwell.

“I love the idea of seeing their car in the parking lot. We’ve not had any problems here, but that car might deter someone thinking of coming in and doing something bad,” he said.

Caldwell said the county’s sheriff deputies have been given keys to both Waterford High School and Waterford Elementary School for the first time this year, but an office has only been set up in the high school.

Caldwell said the schools have seen more of the officers in the past few years than previously.

“They do walk-throughs on a fairly regular basis. I think it shows the younger students there’s no reason to fear them…and seeing them in our buildings, I think it assists in that,” he said.

Newport Elementary Principal Greg Morus said he sees the benefits as well.

“It makes the kids feel more comfortable with law enforcement officers,” he said.

Morus said he appreciates the fact that deputies can pop into the school at any given time and hopes the availability of a dedicated office in the school will make that even more convenient for them.

“They do a nice job of being in and around all our schools,” he said.

Hawkins said the sheriff’s office would ultimately like to open up outposts in more of the local schools but hopes to get the first three up and running smoothly first.

The first three offices worked out well because they are spread throughout the county.

“It helps keep manpower distributed,” he pointed out.

The offices are equipped with Internet connections and the sheriff’s office will provide most of the equipment, such as computers or printers, he said.