Jones County Sheriff Joe Berlin held a press conference Tuesday afternoon, February 11 to discuss several topics concerning the Jones County community and what the sheriff’s department has been doing to address these issues.
During the press conference, the sheriff was asked about an ongoing investigation of an off-duty Laurel Police Department officer. “Yes, there is a current investigation going on. We are aware of the situation, and we’re going to handle the situation by the law. We are currently taking statements from witnesses.” He said once their investigation is complete, they will present the case to the grand jury.
Wednesday afternoon, according to JCSO Investigator J. D. Carter, the District Attorney’s Office suggested the case go through the Justice Court system as a misdemeanor case, and a complaint would have to be filed with the Justice Court by the victim or victims.
The website and inmate roster should be back up and running by the first of next week. Berlin originally was not going to bring the website back, but a new course is now being taken. The website was taken down by the previous administration, who initially set it in place, when they left office last year.
“This has been a hot topic ever since I was campaigning to be the sheriff of Jones County,” exclaimed Berlin, “and even now the people are asking about the inmate roster, so we decided to put the inmate roster back up to give the public the opportunity to see the inmates that are incarcerated in the Jones County jail.”
Litter Detail & School Zones
The inmate litter crews are back on detail, and a crew was picking up litter on Highway 84 East as the sheriff was speaking.
“We are hoping to hit some other areas that are trashed and have a lot of litter with this new crew that has come back out with MDOT,” said Berlin.
He also touched on the safety of local students, saying that the school zone details are up and working.
“This is a vital part of our job to make sure of the kids’ safety and the parents’ safety of getting them back and forth to school,” stated Berlin.
Jail Update & Other Information
He said renovations to the Jones County Adult Detention Center have been completed with necessary repairs made to improve the safety and security at the center.
The narcotics and CID divisions are fully staffed. “We have made twenty felony arrests on narcotics since January 6,” noted Berlin. “The CID Investigative Division is working around 101 cases right now and have made several arrests from the previous administration’s open cases. We will continue to investigate felony crimes and try to make arrests as soon as possible.”
From January 18 to February 11, the Jones County Sheriff’s Department has conducted special traffic enforcement details with 100 percent of their overtime paid for by two grants from the Mississippi Office of Highway Safety, Occupant Protection Grant and Impaired Driving. Saturation patrol and checkpoint statistics include 132 seatbelt violations, one child endangerment DUI, six felony arrests, four fugitives apprehended, 10 DUI arrests-alcohol, one DUI other-drug, four DUI assist to others, two minors in possession, 18 child restraints, 59 no insurance, 27 no driver’s license, 31 suspended driver’s license, eight reckless/careless driving, nine drug arrests, and two written warnings.
“We will continue to be vigorous in enforcing the law and try to keep the communities and the citizens safe,” continued Berlin.
He said he is presently running four-person shifts, which include a sergeant and three deputies, and he hopes to increase that to five-person shifts soon.
He said the department is currently working on two victim’s advocacy grants, which pay 80/20 percent – the grant pays 80 percent of the salaries, and Jones County pays the remaining 20 percent. Victims Advocacy Officer Priscilla Sims is presently working under the VAWA (Victims Against Women Act) grant. In March they will be bringing on Regina Newton, who will be working under the VOCA (Victims of Crime Act).
The sheriff said it’s been tough to begin with. When they took office on January 6, the computers were wiped clean, there were no files, and there was nothing in the office.
“Business hasn’t changed,” added Berlin. “From day one, we’ve been on the ground running. We’re running a proactive department, which means we go to a problem. We don’t wait for the problem to come to us.”
He said, with continued complaints of methamphetamine in the communities, that the JCSO is ramping up their activities and trying to control the problem within the community. He said a lot of the crime in the community, including burglary, is directly related to drugs. By attacking the drug problem, there should be a decrease in the number of burglaries and other crimes in the community.
The sheriff said they have implemented a few new policies in their SOPs, including a drone policy describing what can and cannot be done with a drone. They are currently looking into obtaining body cameras for the patrol deputies, and there will be a policy established for their use.
Berlin said he plans to have press conferences periodically to keep the public informed of what is going on in the department.