Securing the evidence: Sheriff's academy kicks off

Alan Phelps, right, evidence custodian for the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office, explains evidence storage and security procedures to students enrolled in the sheriff’s office’s 2016 Citizens Academy.

Cullman County’s population grew in 2016, while crime fell in all categories except homicide and theft. The result: the area is below the state average in crime.

According the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center, the crime rate in 2015 for Cullman County was 2,125.4 incidents per 100,000 people. By 2017, the rate dipped to 2,064.73 per 100,000. Statewide, the number rose by 2 percent in the same period. The report compiles statistics for homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.

The report does not account for drug arrests, but law enforcement officials have long attributed a huge percentage of thefts and burglaries to illegal drug activity.

Nevertheless, reviewing the Cullman County statistics is encouraging news and a compliment to how law enforcement and the community work together to solve and prevent crimes. Programs such as Citizens Academy and the long-standing school resource officers’ presence in schools builds trust, participation and appreciation for the challenges law enforcement officers face daily in protecting the community.

Area drug agents are also making frequent arrests of people accused of selling drugs. Some of the suspects are local, while others are arriving from out-of-town to sell drugs. The efforts of citizens to learn and recognize suspected drug activity is a large factor in making the arrests possible. Stepping forward to provide information to police and deputies can clear a neighborhood of drug infestation. The intervention of law enforcement also at times find children in homes where methamphetamine is being manufactured, which puts them at risk of physical harm from explosions and careless adults.

Law enforcement officers are primarily responsible for enforcing laws. It’s sometimes a thankless job of issuing tickets, intervening in potentially dangerous domestic disputes, and going undercover to stop drug trafficking. We understand, too, that the more police and deputies interact with the community, the more crimes becomes preventable.

We encourage citizens to continue taking an interest in the role of law enforcement officers in our community. If you haven’t attended a Citizens Academy event, try it. The reviews are impressive from those who complete the class. Any opportunity to hear police speak about crime trends and enforcement is rewarding and educational. And you will get to know those who patrol and investigate the streets of Cullman County.

While the job is often criticized, we know that law enforcement is a partnership with the community. We appreciate the efforts to keep our community a good place to live, while recognizing it is a 24-hour job.

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