Much will be talked about involving the county budget, especially in what is shaping up to be a contentious election season. The Board of Supervisors and Sheriff Alex Hodge have been at loggerheads, with Hodge wanting more money — a big tax increase for every resident — for his department and the supervisors telling him to work within his means.

The board makes a salient point — do more with less. Isn’t that what we all should do? But Hodge counters that he needs more deputies to patrol the county. Visibility is the best deterrent to crime, he says. We don’t disagree. Burglaries are rampant in the county. Hodge has admitted that many times, claiming that he doesn’t have the manpower he needs to stop them. 

With that tactic, he’s preying on the fears of the good residents and emboldening the criminals.

But here’s the truth: The sheriff’s department is not to blame for all of the burglaries. Neither is the judicial system. 

No, the problem is the Parole Board and the Mississippi Department of Corrections’ arbitrary early-release system, not law enforcement officials and judges. The system is set up to turn loose non-violent offenders — the ones who “only” commit property crimes — way ahead of schedule for “good behavior.” The crimes they commit are more likely to affect good, hardworking residents, by the way. And tripling the number of deputies on patrol wouldn’t make a dent. They’re getting paroled quicker and in greater quantities than the good guys can lock ’em up and send ’em away. We have been emphasizing that point for years.

In the meantime, we will be specific with a couple of things Hodge could do to be more efficient with his budget. First of all, he could use the $37,000 salary we taxpayers dole out for his PR person (who doesn’t do PR with the dominant news source in the county) to hire another deputy. Pay Lt. Robert Little or Lance Chancellor $1,000 a month more to do that job. They’re both better at it anyway. Boom, $25,000 in instant savings. Heck, Hodge could host Facebook Live by himself.

Another way to save money: stay out of the municipalities and off the highways unless your department’s assistance is requested. It’s a great big county. That’s where deputies are needed.

Then, sheriff, you could get in a patrol car — even when it’s not election time — and take a shift or two. You make $100,000 per year. Lead by example instead of by meme. Visibility on Facebook Live doesn’t deter criminals.

With or without a dee jay co-host.

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