GUYTON — The long arm of the law is stretched to an uncomfortable level in rapidly growing Effingham County.
According to Chief Deputy Richard Bush, the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office is dealing with a shortage of about 30 deputies.
“I don’t like to say that but I need to say it. That’s just the truth,” Bush said during the April 26 “State of the County” Breakfast at the Guyton Community Center.
The worker deficit is not uncommon in law enforcement in the U.S. There has been a significant reduction in the number of people who want to enter the profession and experienced officers in small departments frequently leave for higher-paying positions in bigger ones.
Bush said the Effingham County Board of Commissioners is aware of the problem and is working with Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie to combat it. Effingham County is the third-fastest growing county in the state.
“As Effingham County grows, our office grows,” Bush said. “It has to grow. We have 482 square miles here in the county and that is a lot of patrols.”
Bush said Effingham County remains a safe place despite the employee gap that is split evenly between the Effingham County Jail and patrol.
“We have a great county,” said Bush, speaking on behalf of McDuffie, who was unable to attend the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event. “We have a great sheriff’s office. We have great municipalities (Guyton, Rincon and Springfield) within the county ...”
Bush vowed that the sheriff’s office will maintain a high level of safety.
“Safety is number one,” he said. “Our sheriff believes that, I believe that and we train all of our folks to say, ‘Safety is number one.’ It’s not about the money. We don’t tell them to go out and write tickets.
“We just get them to do their job — do what you are supposed to do.”
Bush recalled how the surge in population growth has impacted traffic since he joined the sheriff’s office more than three decades ago. Ga. Hwy 21 was a two-lane road then and now it has four lanes that are clogged frequently during the day.
There have been seven traffic deaths in the county this year, up from four in 2021.
Bush said the jail is nearly full. It houses inmates from other counties in addition to its own lawbreakers.
“We’ve got great staff there,” he said. “Of course, we’re short again. We can’t help that.
"We try to advertise and try to do what we can (to fill vacancies) but I can guarantee you that if we get a phone call from you, we are going to be there. I promise you that.”