by Sam Sentelle
Posted on November 7, 2017
Sheriff Steve Deweese
Awareness, social media aid Putnam law enforcement
November 7, 2017
Last month, the Putnam Sheriff’s office answered 1,310 calls for assistance, made 107 arrests (26 of them felony), investigated 93 auto crashes, and issued nine misdemeanor citations. And that’s just part of the work in October reported by Sheriff Steve Deweese on a Facebook page for his office. It’s part of a community outreach initiative, Sheriff Steve Deweese told Putnam Rotary at their luncheon meeting today.
“Once a week we’re going somewhere, to churches and town hall meetings,” he said. “We’re talking to people and letting them know what’s going on.”
He began a law enforcement career in the county 27 years ago. At that time, the old courthouse jail had a capacity of 22 prisoners. Last month the regional jail housed 105 prisoners from Putnam County. In addition, there were 42 people on home confinement and 53 others on “day report.” Back when the sheriff was new on the job, there were few shooting incidents. Now they are frequent.
Deweese quoted Deputy J. J. “Bill” Mullins, “The first ten years I worked for the Sheriff’s Department,” Mullins had said, “I didn’t pull my gun more than six times. “Last fifteen years, it was a nightly process. Every night.”
“Back then,” said Deweese, “people left their doors unlocked. Today, when we go to an alarm call, and there’s a door open — our guns are out and we’re ‘clearing’ that house. It’s amazing how it’s evolved from that to where we are today.”
What about the growing numbers of mass shootings across the country?
“It sends chills down your spine to hear the mindsets of those people,” he responded. “In their mind, they think they are doing right. When we are unsure and we have threats, we’re taught to put another clip in so we know we have 24 more rounds. These people now are doing the same thing. They say they learned that from video games and magazines. In law enforcement, we know to do that, but now the bad guys know to do that too. All of these types of incidents are usually planned.”
The bad guy knows the [police] response time, and they’ll even set their watch to that. They do their homework.
“It’s amazing how we fight crime now, not only on the streets but with active shooters. With any [crowd], that threat is always there. Who would ever think that we would live in a society today that we want security in church or a worship place?”
Crime in Putnam County has grown in recent years. But most of the other 54 counties in the state have greater problems.
Last year there were 130 deaths from drug overdoses in Kanawha County; 133 in Cabell. The number in Putnam was thirteen.
In a recent case, a man who lived alone returned from night shift duty and found a stranger asleep in his bed.
“He let him sleep, stood over him with a gun. My deputies went in there and handcuffed him.”
The uninvited guest thought he was in his own house
“A lot of these people [on drugs] don’t even know where they are at. Out of every ten that we arrest, seven have [drug] needles on them,” the Sheriff said. “When we visit the schools, we used to talk about gun safety. Now we carry a little needle — without the needle on the end of it — and show them. And then tell them, ‘Don’t touch this either.'”
Sheriff Deweese credits the public support in Putnam for strong law enforcement and public security. “There is a huge increase in neighborhood watches,” he said.
“Churches are helping. If you go down [State Route] 34 [US] 60 or [State Route] 62, every church usually has a ‘crisis’ type of intervention counseling free on certain days of the week. And that’s helped tremendously among these addicted people. Most of them want help. Most of them don’t have the money or insurance to get in [a rehabilitation program], and by the time they’ve spent waiting for an opening, they’ve already stepped back in that wrong corner and ‘used’ again.”
But a large measure of the credit must go to a broad sense of cooperation between the community and local law enforcement, he added. Sheriff Deweese maintains a personal presence on social media. Daily postings are on line and kept up to date. Videos from security cameras appear on the internet. “We posted 23 fugitives on the website,” said Deweese. “People recognized them, and we got 22 of them,. The other one is in Florida. We just don’t know where.”
But when No. 23 is located, Putnam people will see it on the web.