JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - New deputies, new patrol cars, and a new pay scale means better law enforcement in Jackson County.
Sheriff Mike Ezell has been working hard to beef up patrols. With the hiring of eight new deputies, that has happened.
"What that's going to do is help improve our response time. More officers out there on the street with high visibility, and we're concentrating a lot of this on the west side of the county," Ezell said.
There's a reason for that, according to Jackson County Supervisor Randy Bosarge.
"You have an area like St. Martin that has over 28,000 people in that area. The largest city in this county is only about 23,000," Bosarge explained.
Ezell adds the new deputies will be paid better too.
"We've also been able to get the starting salary up, which I'm thinking is probably one of the highest on the coast, which is $17 an hour for a new deputy right out of the academy," said Ezell.
Several of the patrol cars are new as well. That's good news for deputies like Brandon Zwick.
"I like the new car. They are better than the old ones we had. These are a lot more reliable. The other ones were in and out of the shop all the time, unreliable, breaking down on us," Zwick explained.
Zwick said the boost in pay will also boost morale and retention of current deputies.
"It definitely helps to get new recruits in. Other departments have several people that want to come over here to get the extra money. I think it will definitely help," said Zwick.
While the sheriff is justifiably proud of the pay increase for the deputies and the increased patrols in west Jackson County, people who live and do business in that area are just as happy. One of them is Margaret Reynolds, who co-owns an insurance agency in St. Martin.
"We're very happy that they're stepping up the patrols. This is a very busy, growing part of the county. As insurance companies, we have a lot of customers in the area, and the additional protection for them, less burglaries and incidents, is really welcome," said Reynolds.
Ezell said money for the new hires, patrol cars, and raises was found by cutting back in other areas, fuel savings, and reducing administrative costs.