A Midsize County Making a Texas-Sized Impact
September 27, 2022 by
The Austin County Sheriff’s Office pushes the limits of what a midsize county can accomplish. Though Austin County is home to less than 1% of the population of Texas’ largest county – nearby Harris County — the sheriff’s office doesn’t take a back seat to its neighbors when it comes to creating safer communities.
The agency runs the only 24/7 dispatch center in the county and dispatches for three municipal police departments, 16 fire stations, emergency medical services, county law enforcement, bailiffs, and state troopers.
Not only does the sheriff’s office oversee all of the county’s public safety agencies, but it also lends its expertise at a regional, state, and national level. The agency works closely with several state and federal organizations on specialized cases, traffic control, and evidence management — one of their areas of specialty.
Interstate Highway 10, which runs through Austin County and connects the San Antonio and Houston metroplexes, is a known drug trafficking route. As the regional High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) task force, the Austin County Sheriff’s Office works with individuals from across the state to process drug trafficking cases — a major feat for a county of its size.
“We like to joke that our county has more cattle than people,” said David Watson, dispatch supervisor and evidence custodian for the Austin County Sheriff’s Office. “We’re rather proud of hosting our own task force. That’s not something a county of our size typically does.”
The task force uses the county’s Records Pro solution to write reports and book evidence in their state-of-the-art evidence management system. The system and facility houses evidence for the local area as well as the state and national agencies they partner closely with, including the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Highway Patrol, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and the U.S. Marshals Service.
Watson credits the Austin County Sheriff’s Office leadership for enabling their staff to make an impact inside and outside of their jurisdiction.
“A lot of our leaders are former DEA agents. They make an effort to get the best people, best equipment, and best resources for our staff,” said Watson. “There are a lot of individual passions shining through — the right people in the right places — and they really make it possible for a county of our size to make a significant impact.”