Sheriff looks back on 2010, forward in 2011

BROOKVILLE — The Jefferson County Sheriff’s office recently concluded a busy year which saw the addition of TASERs to the weapons used by the deputies.

Sheriff Carl Gotwald Sr. said through grants, he was able to purchase TASERs for the deputies to have a more effective means of securing offenders by a less lethal option, “by helping to bring the deputies home safely to their families and friends and the offender into custody unharmed.”

TASERs for deputies have deterred hostility because offenders know the outcome.

The office also purchased all new computer equipment and accessory equipment to provide a more user-friendly license to carry permits, and one complete backup system. It issued 1,243 permits to carry concealed weapons, with many first-time applicants.

“The people from the Brockway area jumped our numbers due to the double homicide there,” Gotwald said, noting that one Saturday saw 32 permits issued in four hours. “That was quite an adventure in the morning, and there were more people from around the county other than Brockway that were there also.”

Also in 2010:

• The sheriff’s department served 74 notices of mortgage foreclosures with only 40 properties being sold at a sheriff’s sale.

“This number continues to remain low despite the economy still not fully recovered, and unemployment in double digits,” Gotwald said.

Deputies also served 87 protection from abuse (PFA) orders, with some ordering the removal of the defendant and all weapons.

“At times, we also want to secure the children with the parent or guardian specified in the court order,” Gotwald said.

• The sheriff’s department also provided security for Plea & Sentence Court and jury trials, transporting 1,024 inmates to court-ordered hearings by President Judge John H. Foradora, District Judges Richard Beck in Brookville, David Inzana in Reynoldsville and Douglas Chambers in Punxsutawney.

• Gotwald said defendants arrested by court-ordered warrants increased from 93 in 2009 to 148 individuals that were taken off the warrant list this past year.

Also, deputies returned 20 individuals who fled the state on fugitive warrants issued by the Jefferson County courts within the past year, which include one from North Carolina; three from New York; two from Michigan; one from South Carolina; one from Maryland; four from Ohio; three from Virginia; two from Nevada; one from Missouri; and one from New Jersey.

• Deputies served 652 civil complaints and other court ordered complaints.

• Deputies provided security for the Clearfield/Jefferson County Airport for all outgoing commercial flights seven days a week, and daily courthouse security for all employees and visitors utilizing a walk through a magnetometer and X-ray machine.

“Despite the fact that Jefferson County is a small county, my deputies check from several hundred individuals to a thousand on any given day who enter the courthouse, mostly depending on the court calendar,” Gotwald said.

• Deputies oversaw the jail work release program — or Orange Patrol, made up of sentenced non-violent individuals who request to be a part of the program — for inmates to perform services for the county, townships, boroughs or non-profit organizations.

Although the numbers vary from day-to-day, inmates worked a total of 7,945 hours, with some receiving good time saving the county 495 days of jail time.

• Gotwald’s office supported community functions, such as Nights Out in Brockway and Punxsy, and partnering with the Pittsburgh Drug Enforcement Administration in taking back expired or unused prescription drugs, by being involved or supplying deputies to assist with traffic control and or security.

• The office continues to work on crime prevention and safety with the “Easter Bunny Program” and “Deputy Bunny,” who visit children’s wards at local hospitals during the week of Easter.

The “Deputy Phil” program is also provided to elementary schools for kindergarten through sixth-grade students.

Also, Gotwald and the county’s drug dog, Brett, continue to promote drug awareness in schools and functions such as “Farm Safety Days,” where all second-graders throughout the county come to the fairgrounds to learn about safety and more.

“I want to thank the media who publicize our year in review,” Gotwald said. “I have people who come up to me after they’ve seen or heard the publicity concerning our department that they had no idea that we were involved in this many areas and departments throughout the county.”

He added that the sheriffs’ departments continue to have their hands tied when it comes to investigating crimes under police powers.

“If we see a subject committing a crime, we can arrest them,” Gotwald said. “We have no authority to investigate the incident, and have to turn it over to the local or state police to investigate.

“There are many things we would like to do, but are not permitted to do so at this time, such as help townships investigating incidents that have occurred,” he said. “Hopefully someday, the sheriffs’ departments will be charged with more police powers than they currently have.”