Tuesday, January 24, 2023 at GOP HQ High Country Republican Women hosted Haywood County Sheriff Bill Wilke, Chief Deputy Matthew Trantham and Public Information Officer, Gina Zachary.
Sheriff Wilke discussed the need for a new jail. He corrected a few errors in a newspaper article about the number of new jail beds (255 new beds versus the current 146 beds) and the costs for shipping out inmates from the overcrowded jail is $40 per day or more depending on an inmate's medical needs. He stressed the humane treatment and respect for the inmates, but didn’t want Haywood County jail to be referred to as the “Haywood Hilton” by criminals.
Regarding the illegal drug activity, he believes “the needle exchange” program was not deterring but “enabling” the illegal drug community.
As for “the early pre-trial release” and “low bail bond” issues, while somewhat helping the problem of overcrowding in the jail, lead many offenders to repeat previous offenses. He is asking for partnering with the other counties’ sheriffs through the Sheriffs’ Association and he is working with our legislator in Raleigh this week to find some solutions.
As for criminal activity from Asheville, the homeless population tends to go to Florida in the wintertime, but the transient community in the Walmart area is being investigated. There is an uptick in public nuisance there, but fortunately, no serious problems yet. The Sheriff demonstrated several ways to ward off being targeted.
Sheriff Wilke stated very clearly the differences between the non-compliant offenders and those seeking help. He believes Haywood county is a community of compassionate, loving folks, who don’t want to be taken advantage of by “non-compliant” offenders. He feels strongly in accountability for the illegal drug/ alcohol abuser community and sees there needs to be a clearer understanding of “mental health” as it applies to criminals.
Lastly, Bill broached the subject of school safety officers or SROs which is a growing concern. He is implementing an emergency plan in the event of an “active shooter” event, as he wants to be proactive. Again, it seems to be a funding issue with a high price tag of over a million dollars to start-up and then the challenge of on-going funding.
Sheriff Wilke, only in office for 52 days, is tackling these issues using multi-county and state legislature support. High Country Republican Women support his efforts and look forward to hearing from him later this year. We believe in law & order and justice for all