SIDNEY — As Shelby County residents obey Gov. Mike DeWine’s stay-at-home order, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office has never been busier.
“I don’t know since I’ve been in office that we’ve ever been busier,” said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart during his weekly interview. “We’re working on our game plan together to keep our officers and our citizens safe.”
Lenhart said before the stay-at-home order was announced, more than 50 Ohio sheriffs were on a conference call with DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, along with other state officials.
“Collectively, we want to work together on the stay-at-home order,” said Lenhart. “The end result is keeping everyone safe.”
Lenhart said the stay-at-home order is located on the sheriff’s office Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/Shelby-County-Sheriffs-Office-Ohio-122222804463854/.
“Stay at home unless you are an essential worker,” said Lenhart. “We want the citizens to know we’re going to use the soft hat approach when dealing with people out of their homes.We believe 99 percent of the people will work with us and do what they’re supposed to do.”
Lenhart said there has been great cooperation with restaurants and bars following the mandate to shutter with the exception of drive-thru and carry-out food.
“There have been one or two people we had to talk to,” said Lenhart. “They decided to work with us.”
The sheriff’s office, said Lenhart, has decentralized.
“he men and women in a squad car are working our of there instead of coming back to the office,” said Lenhart. “The people who are working at the office are self-quarantined in their offices.”
He said there’s also been a reassignment of personnel including at the animal shelter. If a stray is brought to the shelter, the animal’s photo will be posted on the office’s Facebook page. If an owner is found, then the animal will be brought outside the shelter for the owner to claim it.
Officers are also posted at the Shelby County Annex and the COVID-19 drive-thru testing station at the Shelby County Fairgrounds.
“We’ve had about 15 people drive-thru with half of them being tested,” said Lenhart. “According to Dr. Haussman, no one has tested positive for the virus.”
Lenhart said when someone calls dispatch, the callers are being asked different questions than they were in the past.
“The safety of our firefighters, rescue workers and officers going into a home is at the top of our priority,” said Lenhart.
“Our jail population is 67 inmates,” he said. “We normally have 100 more inmates than that.”
With the reduced number of inmates, Lenhart is able to separate, segregate and quarantine any new inmates at the jail. He’s imposed a 14-day quarantine period on any new inmate at he jail.
“I’d like to thank the judges and police departments who have worked with us to reduce the jail population,” said Lenhart. “If a person commits a violent crime, he will go to jail. Those with minor offenses are receiving summons to appear in court.
Lenhart said the community support his office and medial workers is receiving is heartening to him.
“Jackson Center Mayor Scott Klopfenstein and I talked with Airstream officials about making masks for us,” said Lenhart. “On Monday, tthey’re going to start making masks.”
EMI, another Jackson Center company, has received five orders for health equipment and will start manufacturing the items, said Lenhart.
Chief Deputy Jim Frye, who was sitting in on the interview, said the office is receiving many inquiries about who is an “essential” business or worker.
“We have the order posted on Facebook,” said Frye. “You need to work with your employer to determine if you are an ‘essential’ worker.
“Everyone should use their ‘common sense’ when going out,” Frye said.
“We’ll continue to update our Facebook page every few days,” said Lenhart. “If you have ideas/suggestions about fighting the virus, contact us. Sometimes the person closest to the problem might know a solution to it.”
Details are still being worked out for background checks and conceal carry licenses. The state and federal government, he said, still wants each person fingerprinted. We’re going to ask them to modify the requirements.
“Locally you can do everything online (except fingerprints),: said Lenhart. “We don’t want 25-30 people walking into our lobby because they would have close contact with our employees while taking their fingerprints.”
Lenhart said crime has stabilized in the county as fewer 911 calls are being received about criminal activity. The number of calls dispatch is receiving has increased as callers try to find information about the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had one phone call over the weekend that disappointed me,” said Lenhart. “Four individuals were involved in a physical/verbal dispute. I really hope we don’t have to dispatch deputies for disputes like this. We want people to work together to resolve their issues.”
Frye said a part of the reason for the increase in calls to dispatch is because many senior citizens do not have access to the Internet.
“We recommend people call 211,” said Frye. “They’ll be able to talk to a person who will help find them services. If they call us with a legitimate questions, and we don’t know the answer, we’ll go find it for them.”
Lenhart said a morning conference call with area sheriffs continue as they gather and share information on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lenhart encourages all citizens work with the sheriff’s office and other law enforcement agencies as they try to keep everyone safe during the pandemic.
The Sidney Daily News conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.