Coshocton welcomes James Crawford as its new sheriff

Coshocton welcomes James Crawford as its new sheriff

James Crawford officially took office as Coshocton County sheriff on Jan. 4. Crawford was raised in Coshocton County and is a graduate of River View High School.

“As an elected official, I have to reside or have ownership within Coshocton County, but I would not want to live anywhere else. I mean it’s always nice to go somewhere for vacation, but it is so nice to come home. It really makes you appreciate what we have in our community,” Crawford said.

Crawford, who has approximately 24 years of law-enforcement experience, served for more than 18 years as administrative lieutenant with the Coshocton County Sheriff’s Office. Crawford explained that the experience and education he received in that position, as well as the opportunities he was given to supervise the jail, patrol the streets and serve in other divisions, helped prepare him to step into the role of sheriff.

“Since I knew the office, top to bottom, had familiarity with everyone and how business is done, I feel it has afforded me a much smoother transition. That and I could not be prouder of our office. The dedication and the willingness to help make my first week as sheriff successful, it just made things tremendously less stressful. I am looking forward to watching our office grow and watching our personnel achieve great things,” Crawford said.

Crawford wants residents to know he’s there to serve. “I want to hear from our community. I love our community, and the only way we can grow is together. We have to have communication to make that happen. We need to be held accountable to our community, and the only way to have that is for our residents to be able to share with us what is working well and what needs changed. Good or bad feedback, I want to know it because the only way to improve things and keep growing as an office and as a community is to be able to share information back and forth with one another,” he said.

Presently, residents can call 740-623-8477 to express concerns, to leave anonymous tips or to make the sheriff’s office aware of anything. It is an anonymous tip line available to residents in Coshocton County. Residents also can express concerns, leave tips or share feedback anonymously with the sheriff’s office through the use of the Coshocton County Sheriff’s Office app, which is available on smart phones.

“I prefer face-to-face conversation, but some people are not comfortable with that, so I want different avenues open for the public to communicate with me. If you feel comfortable contacting me through the office, you can come in and see me. And for those who don’t feel comfortable, these other options are available. I am also planning to implement an online survey or comment forum that residents can use to communicate with our office. This will allow people to share information online freely and anonymously,” Crawford said.

One of the biggest challenges Crawford has faced so far is the task of trying to get technology such as social media and apps updated with his information on them. “Bear with me as we go through this transition. We will have everything updated, but it will take time,” Crawford said.

As the new sheriff, Crawford has goals and priorities he would like to focus on aside from serving the community to the best of his ability and building better communication with community members. For instance, he intends to actively pursue a new justice center.

“Our building, as nice as it is, is definitely wearing out. We desperately need a new facility. We are not able to offer programming or church services to the inmates or provide adequate safety of officers as they are making sure inmates are safe and secure,” Crawford said.

In addition, Crawford is planning to do some rearranging of assignments and would like to create some new positions in the office. “I want us to have the personnel available for our community and citizens. One of my top priorities is to work with city administrators and show them we have the best relationship possible and can build accountability so that further talks of starting a city police department can be eliminated. I believe we will have a great working relationship with the city administration,” Crawford said.

The drug-addiction problem, school safety and education also are among Crawford’s priorities. “Our community does have a concern and a definite problem with the amount of drugs flowing through the community and those addicted to drugs. It is a goal of mine to eliminate as much as we can so we can curve the amount of arrests and the numbers in our justice center. I want to create a safe environment for our residents and our children,” he said.

Over the years Crawford has frequently been asked questions such as who patrols a specific area or who is this officer or that officer. And one of Crawford’s goals is to help residents become better familiar with the faces and names of the employees who serve the community with commitment and dedication. Therefore, to get this initiative started and as a continuation of National Law Enforcement Day, which occurred Jan. 9, Crawford began to spotlight supervisory personnel on the Coshocton County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page the week of Jan. 11.

As explained by Crawford, one to two people a day will be highlighted on the Facebook page, thanking each person for their willingness to move into the positions and take on the responsibility of helping the sheriff’s office move forward toward the future.

“We will be shining a spotlight on new employees and those who have been promoted too. Coming into the office of sheriff, I have been tasked with appointing staff I want to have in leadership roles in the office,” Crawford said.

For instance, Garrison Bryant was promoted to the chief deputy position. “Without question he is one who will help move my vision forward and encourage everyone to do the best job they can, and we are so proud of Garrison’s leadership abilities and what he has been able to show in his first week,” Crawford said.

The administrative services director position went to Beth Walsh. “She will oversee all administrative paperwork, HR, the budget, etcetera. She is the glue that holds everything together. Her dedication and passion for the job is bar none. I, as well as everyone in the office, appreciate her and congratulate her,” Crawford said.

JD Hardway, who Crawford described as having an excitement to serve the community and help everyone to better serve the community, is the road lieutenant. Crawford explained Hardway has held this position for the past year and has done an outstanding job. Similarly, Crawford shared Lt. Charles Udischas, who has held the position as jail administrator for the past four years, will continue in the position.

“Lt. Udischas has more passion for the jail than anyone I’ve ever known, and I could not think of a better person to oversee the justice center,” Crawford said. “All of our other first-line supervisors who currently have held their positions, I am so thankful for their continuation of service in those important roles.”

In addition to what Crawford is doing to shine a light on law-enforcement personnel who serve Coshocton County, he encourages residents to not hesitate to approach any employee from the sheriff’s office and talk to them.

“We all love to hear from our community, and it doesn’t have to be a conversation about law enforcement. Just a friendly conversation means a lot. Another friendly gesture that I know means the world to me is when someone gives me a friendly wave as I drive by. I can’t express it enough; our community has been overwhelmingly supportive of law enforcement, and that means the world to me.”

Crawford would like to express his appreciation to staff, deputies and community members for helping make his first week as sheriff a successful one. “There’s a lot of negative things happening in the world and turmoil nationally, and we are very fortunate that we do not have that in our community. We experience kind gestures daily from our community throughout the year. People are often coming in and sending some kind of thank you for a job well done. We truly appreciate that,” he said.