Featured photo: Guilford County Sheriff Danny Rogers speaks at a town hall in Greensboro on Nov. 9, 2023. (photo by Gale Melcher)
On Nov. 8, members of the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office held a town hall during which they talked to the community about the department’s budget, detention services, violent crime and how they’re handling illicit drugs.
There will be another town hall held on Monday, Nov. 13 at 6 p.m. in Summerfield at 5404 Centerfield Road.
Watch the town hall here.
According to Lieutenant Wes Mecham, the sheriff’s department runs on an approximately $89 million budget. That’s an increase of about $9 million from the 2023 budget, which came in at approximately $80.9 million, according to the 2024 fiscal year adopted budget for Guilford County.
Of that $89 million, Mecham noted, about $2.2 million is for salaries and the largest portion of the budget — more than $46.3 million — goes to operating the detention centers in High Point and Greensboro.
Despite the sheriff’s office being the second-largest expenditure for the county, second only to the public school system, Mecham said that salaries for employees of the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office lag behind other nearby municipalities.
“Right now, Guilford County is struggling as far as competing with the rest of the area that we live in,” Mecham said.
In Guilford County, the starting range for a deputy sheriff or detention officer is about $43,000 but in neighboring Forsyth County, the range starts at $55,000, Mecham said. In Forsyth County, a deputy sheriff can make $62,000 while Greensboro police officers have a starting salary of $55,000. Alamance County’s Sheriff’s Office starting salaries are around $49,500 while the High Point Police Department pays about $53,000, and Winston-Salem Police Department starts at $55,000, according to Mecham.
“We’re trying to be more competitive,” Mecham said. “We’re doing the best we can but giving you an idea of where Guilford County ranks in the Triad area.”
That’s resulted in a shortage of staff for the department, according to Rogers.
“People are not coming in like they used to,” he said. “Right now we are facing difficult times.”
Later in the evening, Deputy Chief Vic Maynard talked about how there are fewer deputies than there were 30 years ago. According to Maynard, each of the three districts has about six deputies patrolling per shift, meaning there are 18 deputies on duty at any given time. That’s only three more deputies than they had in 1990, Maynard said.
“We need a lot more than that,” he said.
He also pointed out how Guilford County is the third-largest county in the state and the sheriff’s office is the largest full-service law enforcement agency in North Carolina. That means the office executes a wide range of services inducing patrol, detention and administration compared to counties that provide fewer services.
On the whole, Maynard said that the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office employs about 700 people when it is full staffed.
Detention services, mental health crises
Sheriff Danny Rogers also talked about an uptick in people moving through the county jails.
“We have a little more than 19,000 people per year coming through detention,” Roger said.
And many of those people suffer from mental health disorders, he said.
According to Rogers, there are 330 positions within the detention centers. Many of those include counseling and behavioral therapy for substance abuse and a re-entry division.
One community member who works at the downtown train depot said that she sees a lot of mental health issues amongst people who spend time there and asked who she should call.
To that, staff responded that there is a non-emergency line (336.373.2222) that the community can call and that the Greensboro Police Department has also started a co-response program that sends social workers along with police to some non-emergency calls. The sheriff’s office does not yet have a program like that, staff said.
Drug overdose deaths
For community members struggling from substance-abuse issues, the sheriff’s office has recently implemented the minimal-assistance treatment program, shortened to the MAT program. This is a new initiative that considers substance abuse a “disability” rather than a criminal act. Following federal guidelines, the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office began its first round of the MAT program in October 2022 in which inmates are allowed to take legally prescribed medication such as buprenorphine, methadone, naltrexone, etc., to treat their opioid-use disorder as long as they are not engaged in the illegal use of drugs. The individual uses the medication under the supervision of a licensed healthcare professional.
One woman — grandmother to a teenager who bought fentanyl-laced drugs which led to a fatal overdose — spoke passionately at the town hall. She asked the sheriff’s department what they are doing to stop the sale of illicit drugs laced with fentanyl, now a leading cause of death in drugs across the country.
According to TCB’s reporting there’s been a surge in drug overdoses in the city as of late.
“The rate of medication and drug overdose deaths was 29.6 per 100,000 residents in Guilford County between 2017-21,” TCB reported. “Statewide, the rate was 27.6 per 100,000 residents. As for opioid overdose deaths, Guilford County had 24.4 deaths per 100,000 residents while the state had 22.7.”
Captain Clendenin spoke at length about a new statute within NC law that has changed how to address the rise in overdose deaths. The new law, called the “Death by Distribution” law, establishes more severe penalties for offenders who distribute drugs to people who end up dying in the result of the consumption of said drugs. The law, which will go into effect on Dec. 1, makes the offense a Class C Felony which carries a maximum of 231 months in prison.
Clendenin also said that the routine is for patrol officers to always have Narcan on hand and if there is a death, to send the case to the Major Crimes Division.
Up until now, Clendenin said that the department has been successful in jailing dealers who sell opioids or narcotics under the narcotics laws at both the federal and state levels. But with the new law, that could change, he said.
Violent crime drop, police shootings rise
According to the department, the violent crime rate has decreased 8 percent compared to last year. The average response time for the department is also about nine minutes which is “well within the national average,” according to Deputy Chief Vic Maynard.
Last year, the office had about 67,000 calls for services, Maynard said.
Despite the decrease in violent crime overall, Maynard said that there have been more deputy-involved shootings in the last five years compared to years past. According to Maynard, from 1985-2015 there were 14 deputy-involved shootings. But from 2018-23, there were 12.
Maynard said that they were “all justified,” and cleared by the district attorney’s office.
TCB has reported extensively on police shootings in the Triad.
This summer, officers with the Greensboro Police Department killed two people within eight days.More often than not, local district attorney’s offices clear officers of any wrongdoing, as was the case in the Marcus Smith, Nasanto Crenshaw and Edward Van McCrae deaths.
Join the First Amendment Society, a membership that goes directly to funding TCB‘s newsroom.
We believe that reporting can save the world.
The TCB First Amendment Society recognizes the vital role of a free, unfettered press with a bundling of local experiences designed to build community, and unique engagements with our newsroom that will help you understand, and shape, local journalism’s critical role in uplifting the people in our cities.
All revenue goes directly into the newsroom as reporters’ salaries and freelance commissions.