Smith County Crime on the Rise

Major crimes in Smith County are on the rise. According to Smith County statistics more than 2300 crimes were reported to the Sheriff's Department last year. This comes after three years of steady declines in rapes, robberies, assaults, and thefts.

From 1997 until 2000, major crimes in Smith County dropped 34%. And then last year, reports jumped 21%.

The vast majority of the crimes reported last year were burglaries and thefts. Last year, the Smith County Sheriff's Department investigated on average 2 burglaries, and 3 thefts and auto thefts a day. "When we catch a burglar or a theif, the majority of the time, it's to support a habit," says Sheriff J. B. Smith.  "We feel that probably 80 to 85% of the crime that's happening in our county and nationwide is because of drugs."

That's why Smith has reassigned three patrol officers to a new narcotics division. The officers were working regular patrols, investigating all of those burglaries and thefts. But Smith says the increase in county crime means the department has to change it's tactics.

"Law enforcement often times is a reactive organization instead of proactive. And the reason for that is budget restraints. If we had almost everything we needed, it would almost break the tax payer's back."

Smith County will be looking to it's neighbors for help and advice. Gregg County's C.O.D.E. unit has been very successful in making drug busts and reducing drug traffic. Sheriff Smith believes by working together to battle narcotics, everyone comes out better.

"If you don't know what the county next to you is doing, if you don't know what the city in your county is doing and the areas they're working, isolationism in any organization is going to cause failure."

Smith admits by moving three deputies off regular patrols, some areas are going to suffer. But he says it's about making priorities, and choosing the best way to ensure crime doesn't rise again next year.