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No time to waste

No time to waste

Citizens are quick to praise deputies for improvements in reaching scene

Everywhere Jenny Farmer goes, people wave.

An elderly couple entering the Whisky River Lounge waves at the blond deputy in the white and green patrol car.

She returns a wave from the driver of a gray pickup truck on Antioch Road and salutes another patron in the Dairy Queen drive-thru. She waves drivers past a car crash.

Sheriff Mike Winters said the greetings reflect county residents' satisfaction with patrol services, which he vowed to improve upon taking office. Every call for service now is answered in person unless the caller gives the dispatcher permission to handle it by phone.

— I've gotten several times 'Thank you so much for coming out. You got here so fast,' Farmer said.

Deputies' response time has been cut in half since Winters took office in January. Between Jan. — and March 1, a deputy's average response was 19 minutes and 44 seconds, a dramatic drop from 34 minutes reported in October. Returning phone calls as much as a day later was one factor that previously dragged out response time, officials said.

And since moving to 12-hour shifts, deputies have trimmed nearly another minute off their average response time to calls, according to dispatch records.

When Russell Renard of White City called the sheriff's office late last month, Deputy Dave Beatty was at Renard's door in less than 15 minutes.

It's a long drive out, and he got here real quick, Renard said.

Renard said his neighbors had been shooting across East Antelope Road, and one youngster had pointed a gun at him as he drove by. Beatty listened to his concerns, then explained that he would have to catch them shooting to file charges, Renard said. Beatty promised to talk to Renard's neighbors.

Although Beatty never reported back on the conversation, Renard gave the sheriff's department a thumbs-up overall.

In the past, I've had some deputies come out and act like my concerns aren't a big deal, but this last time was a good experience, he said.

Sgt. Terry Larson said he used to count on fielding three or four complaints daily about officers doing a poor job. Now complaints are rare, he said.

It's a different department, Larson said. We're doing things we never did before.

Patrolling on 12-hour shifts in specific regions of the county enables deputies to answer more calls and be more visible in outlying communities, Winters said. It was a change he had in mind even before taking office.

Eight other deputies were on duty with Farmer Wednesday. Under the old schedule, only three or four would have been working, Larson said.

In addition to a core patrol team in the more populated areas on Wednesday, deputies also were in Applegate, Pinehurst and Prospect ' areas that had long been neglected unless a major crime was reported.

We've been trying to get out as far as we can where people really haven't seen us in the past, Farmer said. If you had to run back and forth between White City and Prospect, that pretty much shot your day.

A deputy was able to respond to a shoplifting case at The Wanigan market in Prospect on Wednesday. Last year, deputies would have handled that call by phone, if the market had even bothered to report it.

County residents have told Farmer that they're going to start calling the sheriff's department. They didn't in the past because deputies wouldn't show up, or it would take them too long to get there, she said.

Deputies are getting on scene quicker thanks to a new protocol for using lights and sirens. In the past, deputies were discouraged from driving fast unless a person was being threatened with a weapon, said Capt. Joe Puckett. Deputies now can use lights and sirens when rushing to calls such as traffic crashes, crimes in progress and domestic violence situations.

The public seems to like that, Farmer said. Seeing that we're gonna get there quick. It makes 'em feel good.

Still, some residents see room for improvement.

When Hubbard's Ace Home Center was hit by burglars a week ago, general manager Bob Seus described the level of service as average and the follow-up as adequate.

Rousted by an alarm around 3:30 a.m., Seus hurried to the store on South Pacific Highway in Medford, where he anxiously waited for a deputy. Two arrived about half an hour after the alarm was triggered, one coming all the way from Ruch.

Normally speaking, they're here much quicker, Seus said. In this particular instance, it was just availability. There just weren't enough deputies on duty or they were too far away.

Once there, the deputies were very professional, very capable, he said. They checked the damage, established what was taken and gathered evidence. A week later, Seus called for an update. No one had been arrested.

I would like to see things go faster, but there's not much for them to go on and they have a lot going on, he said.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4459, or e-mail

Jackson County sheriff?s deputy Jenny Farmer makes a routine stop of a White City resident who consented to a search of his personal property. A few changes in policy and scheduling have allowed deputies to slash response times in rural areas. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli