Dare Sheriff’s Office adapting to new normal

Published 4:40 pm Monday, April 13, 2020

The Dare County Sheriff’s Office has been forced to make adjustments due to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. The way deputies police the community is different, but thus far the department has been able to man checkpoints at bridges and maintain the patrol level countywide.

Dare Sheriff Doug Doughtie says the lack of personal public contact is one of the biggest adjustments. “Deputies and all first responders enjoy being around people,” said Doughtie, “ [it’s] hard to talk to someone through glass.”  The deputies now check licenses through closed car windows and often wear gloves and masks as a situation requires.

The sheriff admits it isn’t the way they like to conduct business, but it is a necessity. A hand shake or a hand placed on a shoulder can often defuse situations and keep contact with the public. Social distancing can make the job harder. Initially, as restrictions were placed, the department’s call volume appeared to dip, but has since increased a little bit, according to Doughtie. The community has, for the most part, responded to the new normal.

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Calls into the Dare County Communications 911 center are holding at about the same level as in previous years. To date, COVID-19 calls have only accounted for a small portion of the incoming calls, but on the non-emergency line questions about the coronavirus restrictions are increasing. Captain Trey Piland, director at the center, says dispatchers handle many of the questions or transfer them to Dare County Health and Social Services workers to provide the best information. He thinks although the current health crisis is different, the previous training and experience during hurricane emergencies has helped dispatchers handle this crisis.

Many of the questions received are about the travel restrictions Dare County has enacted. The Sheriff’s Office has deputies manning check points at the bridges leading into Dare County. Deputies check licenses to make sure only residents or those from neighboring counties that perform essential work, have medical appointments or other approved reasons are allowed to enter.

Doughtie says his deputies are checking up to 300 vehicles per day entering through Manns Harbor and up to 1500 vehicles per day using the Wright Memorial Bridge from Currituck County. Most people are compliant. “We haven’t had a lot of trouble,” Doughtie said.

“We live in a wonderful place,” stated Doughtie, who said people are practicing social distancing and following guidelines. Although no one knows where this is going, “the way to do right is there,” added Doughtie.

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