SNOW HILL – The safety of local schools and the nationwide opioid crisis are the top concerns for the incoming leader of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office.
Matt Crisafulli, the victor in June’s primary election, will be sworn in as Worcester County’s sheriff Dec. 4. Though he doesn’t take over the department for another six months, Crisafulli says he’s looking forward to leading the county’s law enforcement efforts.
“I’m just extremely excited at the opportunity to make Worcester County the safest place to live, work, visit, do business,” he said.
In an interview this week, Crisafulli outlined his top priorities for the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office. As he said during his campaign, bringing full-time deputies to each of the county’s schools is his primary goal. He says those deputies would do more than simply protect the schools.
“They can also be mentors and positive role models,” he said. “There are so many things we can do on top of keeping the school population safe.”
Currently, the majority of the deputies placed in local schools are part-time. Crisafulli said they didn’t have take-home vehicles and they were primarily individuals who’d retired from other agencies. Most of them don’t work when school is not in session. He wants to see regular, fulltime deputies on duty in the schools.
“That way we’d have a marked sheriff’s vehicle at the school which is a huge deterrent,” he said.
When asked why the schools weren’t staffed with fulltime deputies already, Crisafulli said there weren’t enough individuals interested in applying.
“Law enforcement agencies nationwide have been shorthanded,” he said. “That’s where I’m going to have to become more creative with our recruitment.”
Another key issue Crisafulli wants to tackle as sheriff is the opioid crisis. He says he’ll be working with the state’s attorney and allied law enforcement agencies to create a team effort.
“We’re not immune to it,” he said. “I want to approach this through education, prevention, and very strict enforcement against the dealers.”
He believes community policing will also play a role in battling the opioid epidemic. Crisafulli wants deputies to spend less time in their vehicles and more time walking the streets of their communities.
“I want to get my deputies back into the heart of our community,” he said, adding that he also wanted to reinvigorate neighborhood watch programs. “Citizens are the eyes and ears of the community.”
In years past, it took a block captain to handle the exchange of information and keep a neighborhood watch group organized. Now, however, with the advent of social media, Crisafulli says it’s easier than ever for the community to stay connected and help in crime prevention efforts. Crisafulli also plans to look into ways CompStat, which tracks crime statistics, could benefit the county.
Crisafulli said he would evaluate the resources and needs of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office fully once he officially takes over as sheriff.
“I want to be fiscally responsible,” he said. “I’m going to redeploy some assets in our office so we can do a better job in spending.”
He said he’d also encourage officers to apply for grants to supplement funding.
“With grants, we can be more creative,” he said.
While Crisafulli has plans and ideas, he said he didn’t want to overstep and would be working closely with Sheriff Reggie Mason in the months before his retirement. He praised the work of Mason as well as his predecessor, Chuck Martin. Combined, Martin and Mason served the county for 24 years.
“They’ve done wonderful things,” he said. “I want to continue the legacy of our past two sheriffs while continuing to move us forward.”
Crisafulli said he would be meeting with Mason regularly in the coming months to ensure a smooth transition.
“The goal is for me to be sworn in and have a seamless transition,” he said.
After the final provisional and absentee ballots were counted last week, Crisafulli ended up securing 2,341 votes, or 44.5%, compared to Mike McDermott’s 2,217 votes, Scott Bernal’s 560 votes and George Truitt’s 141 votes.