Rising crime, an increase in costs and continued staffing issues are making life difficult for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
During Tuesday’s Washington County Commissioners meeting, Sheriff Otto Hanak said the county has seen a “surge of criminals” coming from the Harris and Travis County areas. He said sheriff’s deputies are getting into car chases every week as of late, including in cases like last week where a report of stolen catalytic converters in Brenham led to a pursuit into Carmine.
Hanak said Washington County has become a target.
Hanak believes a major factor in the uptick in criminal activity is an absence of state troopers watching the roadways. He said addressing that will free up deputies to focus on other calls.
Meanwhile, Hanak said rising costs “are out of control”, particularly with costs required to run the jail and care for inmates. At the same time, the sheriff’s office continues to struggle to hire new staff; according to Hanak, out of 23 total positions, including 19 jailers and four sergeants, the sheriff’s office has eight vacancies, including four jail supervisor positions.
Hanak said staffing shortages are not limited to Washington County, but the lack of progress in hiring staff remains frustrating.
In addition, the lack of staff contributes to high expenses for transporting inmates to Grimes and Waller counties to be held in their jails. Hanak said from March 2021 to April 30th of this year, the county has spent $225,960 on those inmate transportation agreements, not including costs of transporting inmates to and from court each week.
Hanak said the jail currently houses 68 inmates and has the capacity to hold 177, so while it could take on inmates from other counties for additional revenue, doing so would only cause further problems for already limited staff.
Hanak said there may not be an end in sight or a real answer available today, but the sheriff’s office will continue to do the best it can for the county.