By Chris Gregory, Managing Editor

The Hartsville/Trousdale Chamber of Commerce welcomed Sheriff Ray Russell as its guest speaker for last week’s March meeting.

Russell was joined by Chief Deputy Wayland Cothron, and the pair worked to set the record straight regarding crime in Trousdale County.

“Some people have been talking about how lawless Trousdale County is here,” Russell told the audience. “We have a good community here. We try to take care of the public.”

The sheriff trumpeted his department’s clearance rate of cases, while noting that the county’s increasing population has translated into more calls to law enforcement.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Trousdale County Sheriff Ray Russell, right, and Chief Deputy Wayland Cothron address the audience at last week’s Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Russell noted that according to records compiled by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Trousdale County cleared, or solved, 53.6 percent of its cases in 2015, up from 47.8 percent in 2014. Among neighboring communities, Lebanon had a 43 percent clearance rate and Wilson County was at 36 percent.

“Statistically across the state, a clearance of 25-26 percent is average,” Russell said. “That’s not to brag on us, but that’s the facts.”

Russell also noted an increase in calls to the sheriff’s office over recent years. In 2013 there were 9,049 calls, in 2014 there were over 10,700, and in 2015 that number reached 12,500. In 2016, the number was at 14,089, according to Russell.

In 2013 there were 1,600 incident reports. Last year, there were 2,000.

“It’s increasing every year,” Cothron said. “Stats continue to increase, but luckily the sheriff has been able to hire good men and women to get that job done.

“I know there are larger departments where you can’t talk to a person anymore… When you call the sheriff’s office here, a person picks up and talks to you.”

Russell cited the cooperation of the public in the increase in calls, saying that people were more willing to call in suspicious activity, rather than an increase in crime itself.

Russell and Cothron addressed concerns over the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, which opened in January 2016. According to Cothron, there had been 328 calls to the prison since then, or less than one per day. A number of those were ambulance calls or calls to assist motorists at the CoreCivic (formerly CCA) facility.

“We have made several arrests for introducing contraband: visitors, and criminals that happened to have guard uniforms on,” Cothron said. “We’ve made those cases and bring them in.”

Asked what crime has seen the biggest increase, Cothron said the usage of drugs would fit that category.

“I remember 31 years ago, if we found someone with a bag of marijuana, that was big news,” Cothron said. “The loss of quality of life of people who use drugs is sad. Kids, homes, property are neglected because people focus on drug abuse.”

Russell said Trousdale County sees more marijuana and pills, but not as much methamphetamine. On the Upper Cumberland plateau, meth is becoming a more prevalent concern, according to the sheriff.

Russell also noted the use of body cameras on all Trousdale County deputies, saying they were a great benefit both to officers and to the public.

“I explained to (deputies), ‘We don’t want to video you doing wrong. We want to document you doing right,’ ” Cothron said. “Video tells what happened without human perception. It helps us get all the facts we can.”

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

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