Local News

DA Asks Cumberland Sheriff for Help in Spring Lake

Posted July 6, 2007 8:03 a.m. EDT
Updated July 6, 2007 6:53 p.m. EDT

— The district attorney in Cumberland County has asked the sheriff's office to take over all violent crime investigations in the town of Spring Lake.

District Attorney Ed Grannis said Thursday the town's police force lacks training and manpower and the sheriff's office would take over felony cases by October. He said a murder case involving a child last year prompted his decision, noting the sheriff's office has handled all crimes against children in Spring Lake since April.

"I think the public has a very real expectation that serious and violent crimes ought to be investigated by confident, trained and experienced investigators," Grannis said. "I think it's hard for small police departments to accomplish that."

Neither Grannis nor Spring Lake Police Chief A.C. Brown could be reached for comment Friday.

Spring Lake Mayor Ethel Clark acknowledged that the police department has limited resources but disagreed with any assertion that the department is inadequate. The town has only two detectives on its 20-person force, she said.

"If you got a real serious case, that could take a whole lot of background investigation. That could take a detective out of the whole force. Their offering to help is a good thing," Clark said.

She said she plans to meet with Brown next week to discuss ways to improve the department. She said she hopes the town of about 8,000 residents can hire more detectives.

"I have complete confidence in our police officers," she said.

Cumberland County Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler agreed to take on the new cases and said his office will use four full-time deputies to cover Spring Lake cases. He plans to request money from the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners to hire more deputies.

"We have about as much as we can do personnel-wise here in the sheriff's office," Butler said. "It's a strain on us, but this has to be done."

The Spring Lake Police Department will continue routine patrols and will handle traffic enforcement and minor crimes.

The sheriff also said the move isn't an indictment of the Spring Lake Police Department.

"I don't think it's saying they're incompetent because they're going to continue to do their job out there, as far as I know," he said. "When the time comes that they can take the responsibility, or the (district attorney) or the chief district court judge feels they can take care of it, we'll be glad to step aside."