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Mon, March 30

Sheriff takes on concerns of Beaver Creek

Photo by Nathaniel Luedeker

Sheriff Steve Waugh addresses residents' concerns in Beaver Creek Feb. 3.

Waugh, sporting brown jeans, moccasins, and a western shirt, met with some members of the community at the Beaver Creek Baptist Church in part to determine the specific law enforcement needs of the Rimrock/Lake Montezuma area and to create an advisory partnership with the residents.

The partnership, Waugh hopes, will help compensate for the limited number of patrolling deputies in Yavapai County by opening a frequent line of communication between the Sheriff’s Office and the Lake Montezuma/Rimrock area. The sheriff’s department is developing other community advisory partnerships in similar communities.

In part, Waugh told the 20 or so attendants, the partnership would, "provide information that relates to the quality of life that I can have an impact on."

Waugh said these community relationships with the department would be necessary because of the large size of Yavapai County and lack of resources to staff each geographic location with patrolmen. He told the group that Yavapai County has a total of 114 deputies. Of that total, 75 are assigned to patrol.

These figures, Waugh said, means only about 15 deputies work in Yavapai County on any given day. These deputies work eight-hour shifts, so only five can be expected to be on duty at any given time, he said.

"It’s a real balancing act, and it hasn’t been balanced real well in the last couple of years," he said

"Historically I can tell you deputies were distributed through the county by "how the wind is blowing today," he said, noting that the department will now distribute their personnel based upon calls for service and by analyzing response times.

Despite the reorganization, Waugh did not seem optimistic about improving response times and said the new deployment of deputies would be based on criteria he termed as, "suffer equally."

Based on 29,000 dispatch calls in 2004 the departments average response time was approximately one hour, according to the sheriff.

Waugh said that the increased urbanization of Yavapai County and stiffer competition for tax dollars has stretched the department’s resources. In addition, he said he has not been able to organize the force the way he intended to because the department was $500,000 in the red when he took command as sheriff on Jan.1.

Yet, the sheriff has made some major organizational changes to the department.

Waugh said he created geographic areas of commands that parallel the county supervisors' districts. Each area of command will be staffed with a lieutenant who will function similar to a police chief for that location.

Waugh said he is working toward other improvements such as creating an informative Web site for the department, increasing the number of volunteers and improving their training, and eventually opening full service sub-stations for each area of command.

Some community members in attendance voiced concerns to the sheriff about property crimes and vandalism in the Beaver Creek area. Bill Cowan, president of the area Kiwanis club, told Waugh the area would prefer to have a deputy to gather information to solve the crimes or at least a way for a citizen investigating on their own to lead into the sheriff’s office.

Waugh told Cowan he was willing to work with the community, previously stating he would meet with the Beaver Creek Community Action Team and area residents on a quarterly basis.

The Beaver Creek Community Action Team, a group formed over two years ago in part to act as a middleman between the community and sheriff’s department, hosted the meeting

Jeannette Estes, coordinator for the action team, said the group has 13 members and is currently looking for new members to help improve the overall quality of life in the Beaver Creek area. Interested parties can contact Estes at 567-0664.

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