Sheriff Matt Carter told Paducah Rotarians on Wednesday that drug arrests in McCracken County have increased 92% comparing January to June 2018 to January to June 2019 -- an "astonishing" increase he credits to "proactive criminal patrol."
Carter served as this week's speaker for Rotary Club of Paducah in the Myre River Room at the Carson Center and discussed sheriff department staffing, statistics and the implementation of the Storm Team initiative, which features directed patrol to reduce criminal activity.
"I believe that drugs are a root cause of so many crimes ...," Carter said. The Storm Team targets specific locations and goes after people who bring "poison" into the community.
"We are trying to send a message to the criminal element that their presence is just not welcome here," he said.
Carter added that reported felony crime has decreased 11% so far this year, while misdemeanor crime decreased 3%.
"The question that I continue to ask myself and I continue to monitor for our agency is: 'Are we making a difference? Are we truly making a difference?'" he said. "Because that's what it's all about. I'm going to submit to you … that we are."
In his "working plans" for the future, Carter also envisions the sheriff's department to earn its accreditation and join the ranks of 20 other sheriff's departments in Kentucky that are accredited. This would save costs on insurance premiums, according to Carter.
He also wants to see increased pay for deputies.
"If you work a 20-year career at the McCracken County Sheriff's Office, compared to the Paducah Police Department, there is nearly a $220,000 difference that you're going to make overall," Carter said. "And respectfully, I believe our men and women are just as deserving for that pay -- for what they do and the responsibilities that they have -- as anyone else."
Carter also aims to restructure shifts to make sure a maximum amount of "units" or personnel are available -- especially during peak call times -- ensuring balanced law enforcement coverage, quicker response and decreased liability.
"Common sense -- if you're having to go from Reidland to Ragland, and you're running lights and sirens, you're increasing liability," he said. "You're putting wear and tear on vehicles. You're spending gas."
However, Carter told Rotarians he believes McCracken County Fiscal Court is doing everything it possibly can for the sheriff's department, noting that: "You can only do with what you have to do with."