To help keep shoppers safe and potential thieves at bay, a few stores at The Highlands use off-duty deputies to work the area that has grown to resemble a small city.
Ohio County Sheriff Pat Butler said stores such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy, J.C. Penney and others signed a contract with Ohio County to use seven deputies to provide security at their shops. He said the extra work does not impact the department's regular patrol coverage of the county.
''They sign up to work on their days off,'' Butler said, noting the extra-duty pay is placed directly on deputies' paychecks. ''It's been happening the last several years.''
Photo by Shelley Hanson
Ohio County sheriff’s deputies Mike Warren, left, and Chad Clatterbuck work at The Highlands on Friday evening.
The county still is responsible for deputies' benefits and workers' compensation coverage while they work extra hours for the stores. Other deputies, who are hired and paid by the county's development arm, the Ohio County Development Authority, patrol the site and periodically conduct walk-throughs of all the stores, he added.
Butler noted that two months ago deputies set up a sheriff's substation of sorts at the rear of one of the stores. He declined to disclose the exact location, as he does not want people trying to break into it.
''We use it to fingerprint people for shoplifting calls and whatever else needs done. And it has a fax machine,'' Butler said, adding second-offense shoplifters must instead be taken to sheriff's department for processing.
On Friday evening, Deputy Chad Clatterbuck said during the holidays, two deputies are assigned to patrol the site. They deal with shoplifters, car break-ins and the occasional call to break up a fight.
''It's that time of year. The volume of people up here is a lot higher,'' Clatterbuck said.