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McLennan County: Crime Fighters Make Impact, Jail Slow to Open

McLennan County Sheriff, Parnell McNamara

McLennan County Sheriff, Parnell McNamara

When Parnell McNamara, McLennan County’s new Sheriff, was campaigning against former Chief Deputy Randy Plemons, many on the Plemons side said McNamara was in over his head. They made statements to the effect that McNamara was unqualified to lead such a complex department.

During a debate at University High School, McNamara addressed a specific question about his desire to implement and manage a new Drug Task Force, something he felt was a necessity in order to combat the growing concern. Plemons responded by claiming it’s easy to say one wants to do something, but the reality of funding such a Task Force would stress an already tapped out Sheriff’s department.

Now that Parnell McNamara has taken office, defeating Plemons in the Republican Primary and handily defeating the Democratic challenger, Willie “There’s No Drugs Here” Tompkins, McNamara has taken the bull by the horns, proving his tactics would achieve the end result of fighting and reducing crime in McLennan County.

In a recent interview, McNamara mentioned the overwhelming support he’d received from the patrol officers and people in the department, saying they have done an incredible job, reiterating how proud he was of all the department’s ability to work together.

“We’ve been busy,” McNamara said, ” In my first three weeks (Jan. 1st – Jan. 21st, 2013) we made over 67 arrests and seized 72 items in contraband. Between our three units (Organized Crime Unit, Criminal Investigation Department, and Patrol unit) we made 170 arrests and seized 3 automobiles, including a 2011 BMW 5 Series.”

“We’re hitting drugs hard,” said McNamara. “The City of Waco, DEA, DPS, and Sheriff’s Department are all working together. We’re raiding homes in Moody, Robinson and across the county, finding black-tar heroine, ICE, crystal meth and capsulized heroin.”

On the campaign trail, McNamara  stated, in contrast with Randy Plemons and the previous Sheriff, that a Drug Task Force could nearly fund itself with seizures. Although the revenue generated from seizures cannot be distributed as pay, the force can stock up with much needed equipment, fortifying the force and increasing its capability.

Doing exactly what he promised he’s do, McNamara’s leadership is turning up the heat on the criminals and thugs in McLennan County.  But with the increase in arrests, and the associated cost of housing the incarcerated, some are suggesting that District Attorney, Abel Reyna, is being too hard on the criminals. They say he’s not negotiating “fairly” on sentences, creating a major dilemma in our county jail system, and costing the taxpayers.

At an estimated $400,000 per month, the citizens of McLennan County are paying the Jack Harwell facility a handsome amount to “house” the criminals. When asked why we’re dealing with such a high cost, McNamara said, “That’s a great question. We have a facility in downtown Waco, which has been under renovation for years, but is still not ready for use.

According to McNamara, the facility’s smoke evac system is not up to current standards, and everything’s on hold until we figure out exactly what it’s going to take to either upgrade or replace the system. “I think we could do a better job of managing it if it were under our thumb,” said McNamara, who suggested it would be better than sending overflow inmates off to another facility.

McLennan County Commissioner, Pct. 4, Ben Perry

Ben Perry, McLennan County Commissioner, Pct. 4,

Ben Perry, McLennan County Commissioner Precinct 4, went on record, saying “the smoke evac system was installed in 1978, and although it functions properly, according to requirements in 1978, it falls short compared to today’s standards. “ This delay, along with others, has cost McLennan County taxpayers millions, and has caused some to raise the question, “but I thought when construction began on the renovation of the downtown jail, it was agreed to be grandfathered?”

According to Perry, it is true, the project was to fall into a “grandfathered” status, which should eliminate the need to upgrade to meet current standards.

Where do we go from here? Apparently, we’re still waiting to hear from the Texas Jail Commission, which has yet to make an official evaluation. “What we need, is a fair and reasonable assessment,” said Commissioner Perry. Unsure whether we need to pay a $70-100,000 Consulting fee and a 1-2 Million dollar bid to replace the system, Perry added, ” we might discover the system may need to simply be modified.”

What we need now, is an engineer, willing to give an assessment, and then provide some alternatives, along with a bid.  Is there an Engineer in the house?  If so, please introduce yourself to the McLennan County Commissioner’s court, and Parnell McNamara. The citizens of McLennan County could sure use your help!

Our crime fighters don’t need politicians interfering with their job to clean the streets of thugs. They don’t need to be worried about overflow, and cost to house inmates. They just need to know, when they arrest someone, their boss will support them, the District Attorney will fight for them, and the public will appreciate their efforts to make the county a safe place to raise a family.

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