Brittney Burns – Staff Writer
Sheriff Robert Holland has been faced with the need for an increased presence of law enforcement since the beginning of his career. With budget constraints and growing demands in the rest of the county, aside from a School Resource Officer who lives in the Nantahala Community, the Macon County Sheriff’s Office is limited in terms of patrolling the area outside of dispatch calls.
“Since becoming sheriff there has been more coverage than ever in the history of our county in the Nantahala Community,” said Sheriff Holland. “We utilize every resource we have available to carry out our duties and to provide the best services available to the general public.”
Holland said the department’s greatest improvement has been the SRO at Nantahala School who wears several hats within the department and works beyond his SRO duties.
“We now have a full time SRO in Nantahala and he does an excellent job,” said Holland. “Just as every other officer in this agency he wears many hats. During the daytime hours as agreed between the commissioners and myself that SRO remains at the school unless he is needed to respond to an emergency in the community. That SRO has done an excellent job handling such responsibilities. Just like every other officer in this agency that can sometimes become a heavy burden but we accomplish our needed tasks and fall in to wherever we are needed. That officer sometimes also gets called out at night and on weekends to respond to calls for service because he lives in Nantahala and can provide a quicker response. Again, he is doing something that every other officer in this agency has done. This is why, and every officer understands it, that we are on call 24/7 and another reason deputy sheriffs have assigned take-home cars. In addition when the SRO is not working (but available) other officers assigned to the patrol unit respond to calls in the Nantahala area just as they respond to every other community in the county.”
Members of the Nantahala Community asked the commissioners to consider providing the sheriff with additional manpower to handle the remote corner of the county. While they appreciate the efforts of the sheriff’s department, they say an increase in crime needs to be addressed.
“I am here on behalf of the Nantahala Community,” said Melissa Evans who spoke to commissioners last week. “We are here this evening to request funding for a full time officer in the Nantahala area. Nantahala has had a fairly low crime rate in past years but recently it has increased. Drug dealers and users from neighboring Cherokee County have started moving into the area. We think that the main reason they are coming here is because there is so little law enforcement presence in our community. Response time at best is 45 minutes, and they know that.”
Evans suggested that a full time officer could be stationed at the Nantahala EMS building, which has an equipped office for a police officer already.
Evans said that the latest robbery occurred Sunday, May 14, during morning church hours. The owner of the home can see the roof of his house from church and the home is located just 25 feet from the road, yet in broad daylight it was still robbed.
In 2016, the Macon County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to 15,398 emergency calls through the county’s 911 communications center. In addition to emergency calls, there were 16,334 non-emergency calls totaling 31,732 calls for service (or 87 calls per day) 42 per day were emergency responses. Of those 31,732 contacts in 2016, 255 of those were in the Nantahala Community.
As of May 16 of this year, deputies have responded to 5,791 emergency calls (42 calls for service per day) through the 911 communications center. Of those 5,791 calls in first 137 days of the year, 101 were in the Nantahala Community.
Sheriff Holland noted that additional help can also be utilized but assured county commissioners that the county is in a better position today than it has been in previous years.