Patrick County Sheriff Dan Smith recently released the 2021 law enforcement activity report for Patrick County. The report was derived from information compiled by the Virginia State Police Data Analysis Reporting Team (DART) Crime in Virginia Publication and from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) crash data report. Smith stated that the Crime in Virginia report offered similar numbers from years past, with Patrick County showing a 3.2% (3,200 incidents per 100,000) incident rate. The incident rate is based on what are defined as Group A offenses, ranging from petit larceny to murder, per 100,000 in population. The highest incident rate among cities in the state was found in Roanoke, with 9.2%. Pulaski County had the highest incident rate among counties at 5.5%. The City of Richmond had the highest number of murders with 89.
Smith said that Patrick County enjoys a low crime rate compared to many jurisdictions in Virginia, but that we are busier than most rural counties. In counties where sheriffs serve a population of less than 20,000, only Buchanan and Scott Counties had higher incident rates than Patrick. Smith attributes this to the county’s long-standing methamphetamine problem. “Methamphetamine abuse and distribution creates unwanted bi-products like theft, domestic violence, child sexual abuse and mental health issues that plague our community,” the sheriff advised. The sheriff’s office has indicted more than 800 drug dealers county-wide since Smith took office nearly 15 years ago, but he admits that “it’s like fighting the tide, we have to continue our persistence, and we will.”
The sheriff’s office’s 911 center received more than 17,000 calls, with approximately 83% being law enforcement calls for service. Smith stated that a particular strain on the office’s resources come from the emergency custody and temporary detention of mental health patients. Smith stated that the mental health system in Virginia has been in extreme dysfunction for years, with local law enforcement, particularly sheriff’s offices, receiving the brunt of that dysfunction. Deputies routinely take suicidal subjects into emergency custody, as mandated by law, in order to get them mental health services. According to Smith, deputies often end up caring for the in-custody patient for two to three days before a mental health facility will accept the patient. “The deputy often has to take the patient to some facility hours away, there is gross inefficiency in the process,” Smith said. Until this year, sheriff’s offices have received zero funding to help with the problem, which costs the taxpayers an enormous amount of money each year. The sheriff’s office was awarded a grant this year from Piedmont Community Services (PCS) that will provide a deputy sheriff who will be trained in Crisis Intervention (CIT). The sheriff is grateful for the additional grant position and maintains that his agency has a close working relationship with PCS, but insists that until more mental health facility bed spaces become available, the problem will continue to persist.
Sheriff Smith is most pleased about the reduced number of highway fatalities compared to years past. Patrick County historically has had one of the highest crash fatality rates in the state, but last year, only one fatality occurred. “in partnership with the state police, we have maintained visibility and increased safety on our highways, which has saved lives,” Smith stated.