Smith Co. Sheriff says changes already bringing improvement to s - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Smith Co. Sheriff says changes already bringing improvement to safety

Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith

When Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith took office earlier this year, he promised big changes that would improve the efficiency of the department.

He said his focus would be improving both department communication and patrol organization in the county.

Six months in, Sheriff Smith said he has hit the ground running, making strides for improved safety in Smith County.

"A lot of people wish I would slow down," Smith said. "But slowing down is not in my vocabulary."

 One of his pledges included moving law enforcement from 10 hour shifts to 12 hour shifts, which he said would allow for more proactive work and keep deputies on the streets. The change has already been made, without increasing the departments budget.

"It's taking them out of menial tasks that they had and putting them where the rubber meets the road," Smith said.

He attributes improved response times to those same changes.

"Many times, we had four officers on duty for 960 square miles at a time," Smith said. "So that had to change."

Prior to Smith taking office, the office only kept records of when deputies were dispatched and when they arrived. Smith has changed that to now include when the initial distress call is received as well. He said that move allows for more accurate figures to base improvement on.

Current data shows the average response time from dispatch to deputies arriving on the scene is approximately 10.56 minutes. The Sheriff's office said new software will soon allow them to provide data that will include the initial call to the 911 center in the response time figures.

"For citizens, response times are everything," Smith said. "What I would like to see is an average response time in an unincorporated part of Smith County between 15 and 20 minutes. Many times we get there before then. But, they want them there right then and the response time really should start when they call the 911 center."

Another focus of his term is improving the rate of solved homicides. So far this year, all three have been solved. The department has also been able to close two cases from 2012.

"We send the proper number of personnel out," Smith said. "We don't concern ourselves with administrative things such as compensatory time. We'll worry about that after we get the perpetrator in jail."

There are also changes shortly down the road. The sheriff said he plans to soon allow deputies to refill their vehicles out in the field, instead of returning to a central location in Tyler. Deputies will also be able to video conference into briefings, allowing them to stay spread out through the county in lieu of commuting back and forth to Tyler for the meeting.

"I've made a tremendous amount of changes over a six month period," Smith said. "I anticipate ill be making changes until the fourth year of my term."

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