DeSoto County sheriff wants bigger budget

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HERNANDO, Miss. -- Al Johns and his neighbors banded together recently to help stop crime in their neighborhood, and he was glad to see the DeSoto County sheriff at the organizational meeting for his neighborhood watch.

”We need all the help we can get out here. That’s the good thing about the Neighborhood Watch is we’re getting in touch with many of the law enforcement," Johns said.

Now Sheriff Bill Rasco is asking DeSoto County leaders to step up and help pay for that help.

He wants to hire new deputies and put new cars on the road, and wants a budget boost to pay for it.

Rasco couldn’t be reached on the matter, but he has said a 36 percent increase in arrests and a more than 40 percent increase in accidents show the need for new officers.

But DeSoto leaders say they’re not sure how to pay for it.

Sources in county government tell me supervisors would be hard-pressed to give the sheriff the money he wants without increasing property taxes. Meantime, they’re asking other departments in county government to make significant cuts.

Supervisors say they’re keeping an open mind.

”Safety is probably our number one issue here in DeSoto County,” Supervisor Harvey Lee said.

But that doesn’t mean supervisors will automatically hand over the money the sheriff wants.

”The budget’s tight this year. We’ve got to look at everything, not just the sheriff’s office, we’ve got fire, we’ve got EMA, we’ve got the whole budget we’ve got to look at,” said Lee.

Supervisors say they have no plans to raise taxes, so pressure is building for cuts.

Neighbors like Johns hope it won’t hurt law enforcement too much.

”Anything that, like, the sheriff can do to help is excellent," he said, adding that crime’s not going away.