Curry: Sheriff’s office eliminates D.A.R.E., other services

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry said Feb. 14 that his office doesn’t have enough money in its budget to continue providing all the services it usually provides.

“Looking at the financial picture and resources picture, some of the things we’ve been doing, we’re going to have to stop,” Curry said.

Three specific services have already been targeted for cuts, and more could be possible, Curry said, adding that his office is still studying and exploring possibilities.

Curry said his office is understaffed by 40 to 45 percent below the national average. He said the cost of gas is a major factor in the cuts and proposed cuts.

Starting this fall, the sheriff’s office will no longer support the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, better known as D.A.R.E., in area schools, Curry said. The program has been in place since 1991.

Also starting this fall, the sheriff’s office will no longer provide deputies to staff special events – basketball and football games, for example – at several area schools, including Oak Mountain and Chelsea high schools, Curry said.

“If they need a deputy at special events, they’re going to have to hire those deputies out of available resources within the school system,” he said.

Curry said his office is “trying very hard” to leave three school resource officers in place, but said that number might be reduced to two.

The marine patrol provided by the sheriff’s office on Lay Lake is being scaled back, Curry said. The service has been provided since the mid-1990s and, in the last several years, has patrolled seven days a week, 12 hours a day from May to September.

Now, Curry said, the patrol will be provided five days a week, eight hours a day on a varying schedule.

Curry said other cuts are possible and will depend largely on the price of gas.

The sheriff’s office has $350,000 budgeted for gas, he said, and expects to exceed that amount by close to $200,000.

Last year, the sheriff’s office spent $450,000 on gas but was able to cover the extra cost.

“This year we don’t have any discretionary costs,” Curry said.

He said deputies could begin doubling up with two-man patrol cars, which would reduce the number of sheriff’s vehicles on the road.

“Unless the county commission decided this is a rainy day, we will just have to continue to cut service,” Curry said, referring to the “rainy day fund.”