The Woodward News

Local News

July 16, 2013

Department growing with community

Sheriff wants secure environment for everyone in county

Woodward, Okla. — Six months into his second term, Woodward County Sheriff Gary Stanley has plans to continue the steady progression toward a larger and better equipped force to serve the people of Woodward County.

The 62-year-old Woodward County native sat down with the Woodward News Monday morning and discussed how he feels about the strides his department has made over the last four years and hinted at some areas he is still working to perfect.

"What we want to focus on is providing a secure environment for all in this county, no matter what type of crime you are talking about," he said.

According to crime statistics published by the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation, Woodward County crime stats remained fairly static from 2008 to 2011 with one exception of a slight increase in murders.

From 2009 to 2013 there have been three murders in Woodward or Woodward County, according to the OSBI published statistics.

To appreciate those statistics, one must include the population, just in the City of Woodward, increased to about 15,000 from just 11,000 six years ago, according to Census Bureau Statistics. At present, there are nearly 21,000 living in Woodward County, according to the Census Bureau.

To that end, Stanley, during the 2009 to 2013 time frame, has increased the force by three-from nine deputies to 11 deputies. He would like to eventually see the force increase again to 15 deputies.

"This is a town in a boom," he said. 'When you have a booming town like this, every type of crime increases."

However, despite an increase in population by almost 4,000 in the last half a decade, the crime index remains fairly stable, Stanley said.

He points to the increase of available space in the jail as one possible reason for a slight decrease in some crimes and for the overall crime rate, which remains stable.

"I think part of it is the judges know we have the room to keep some of these offenders," he said. "So before, when we were so over crowded, you'd have an offender and he'd just keep on and keep on offending because there was no room to keep him in the jail. Now, the judges are setting higher bonds on these offenders because they know we can take them and we are getting them out of the public."

The new, larger Woodward County jail was something Stanley had been envisioning even before he thought about running for Sheriff.

The then 41 man facility was over populated and had received several citations as well as being the cause of two law suits still pending against the county.

"When I got elected and took over in January of 2009, I began working on getting everything together to get the tax up for a vote," he said.

By that fall, the tax for the new jail was approved by the public and construction was complete in late fall of 2011 on the facility, which now has the capacity to handle 140 prisoners.

As of Monday morning, before anyone had posted bond from weekend arrests, there were 108 prisoners in the Woodward County Jail.

As the community grows, Stanley said the sheriff's office must grow with it, not only in numbers but in the use of better technology, which can enhance the speed and efficiency whereby a call is handled and can also protect not only the public but also the officer.

On his desk, Stanley shuffled through some paperwork and pulled out two housing addition maps for two separate housing subdivisions being built.

You know, the population has increased and you know where all those people are going," he asked and then answered his own question. "I'll tell you where, to these additions that are in the county."

His strategy in dealing with these emerging challenges is to consider the hiring of more deputies. However, it will be a slow process, as each hired deputy has to attend a four month course and the funds to provide that training, as well as benefits and salary is a serious undertaking for a still growing community, he said.

In the mean time, he plans to continue improving available technology for his deputies.

Already, he has made in car cameras and lapel cameras standard items for his department. But would also like to extend the use of technology to improve areas of "customer service", he said.

For instance, improving the phone system to include an ability to record and date all incoming calls, including non-emergency calls, would allow a roster of calls coming into the sheriff's office to be maintained.

"I would like for everyone in the county to know that when they call, someone is going to come," Stanley said.

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