In his first press conference since taking office, Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith detailed the changes to the department he's made since his inauguration while talking about some upcoming plans.
One of the most noticeable changes Smith has implemented is going from staffing the department's downtown lobby during business hours to having it open 24 hours a day. Doors remained locked in the evenings for safety but a deputy is always available to buzz visitors in.
If you think you're spotting more deputies on the road you're right. Smith said, as of last month, a switch to 12-hour shifts is putting more deputies out in the county and on patrol at one time.
"All we were able to do before with four to eight units was react to calls," Smith said. "That's all we had any time whatsoever to do. So we're now able to do some proactive law enforcement."
Smith has also implemented a new system that holds the department more accountable for response times.
As for the black and white patrol cars themselves, they're changing from a "wrap" to a paint-job for a savings of $2,200 dollars a car.
Jail construction is on tap to be done in a year and after that the sheriff said he wants to start housing Federal inmates. That means instead of paying to send Smith County inmates out of town--like the current overcrowding requires--extra space will allow the county to collect up to $2 million a year by housing federal inmates. In turn, Smith said, that would pay off the jail expansion quicker.
Meanwhile, solving crimes could get a 21st century shot-in-the-arm courtesy of "tip411." The sheriff said the software has been bought and soon you'll be able to send a tip or even a picture of a crime from your smart phone. That software also allows an anonymous two-way conversation between investigators and tipsters.
Smith also highlighted recent high profile arrests like an accused murderer, an accused child molester and Smith County jailer who was arrested days after Smith took office.
"We're not going to have to call another agency in, whether it be the FBI or the Rangers or whatever to clean out from under our own door step," Smith said. "We're going to do it ourselves."