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There’s a new(ish) Sheriff in town

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There is a new Sheriff in town. Well, sort of. Sheriff Rodney Smith temporarily took office almost a year ago on March 28, 2014, after the suspension of former Sheriff Patrick Kelly, and will be officially appointed sheriff soon. With a realistic yet engaging stance on policing, the Athens County Sheriff’s Office has since bounced back from the corrupt leadership it experienced before.

“We work for the people of Athens County,” Smith said. “It’s not about me or [Pat Kelly], it’s about the citizens. It’s about the people. The safety of our people, and the safety of our officers. I was more than happy to accept the challenge.”

Not only a lifetime resident of the area but also a 26-year law enforcement veteran, Smith knows his way around the area and the career. Developing cooperation between law enforcement agencies and getting out into the community to really see what is going on, his approach on tackling crime is personable and easy to get behind.

Athens County covers 503 square miles and 11 different townships or villages, and Smith is adamant about getting out there and genuinely talking to the people. He has implemented crime watch meetings in each community under his jurisdiction.

“We go talk to the people, understand what their problems are, what their issues are, and that enables us to enhance our patrols, and see what really needs our attention.”

With so much land to cover and so many different police forces all operating in county limits, three just within the city limits, it would be easy to run into communication problems. However, under Smith’s leadership the Athens County Sheriff’s Office was able to join Nelsonville Police Department, Athens Police Department, Ohio University Police Department and the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office to form the Major Crimes Unit.

Smith said he has found that 90 percent of crime relates back to drugs in some way. Drugs from the county come to the city; from there they spread to the university and many lives are affected. This task force will help combat that significantly. Smith made it a point to say how important the sharing of intelligence is, and this cooperation will allow the community peace of mind.

His personable attitude towards policing is working well, and because of this, there has been little to no distrust of his office in the wake of Patrick Kelly’s conviction. While most of Athens has been tuned in to the former Sheriff’s trial, Smith and his office have been quietly carrying out effective practices that are making the town safer.

“We’re going to follow the evidence, follow the law to the letter, and when we arrest someone, it’s going to be a strong case. We are going to be very proud to look that person in the eye and say that the evidence clearly substantiates what they did,” Smith said.

“We’re going in a great direction and this role gives me an opportunity to serve the citizens of Athens County. I feel very blessed that I was able to come back as Sheriff and I was actually able to implement some things that would benefit the citizens and make our community safer.”

 

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