In 2011 there were 700 traffic stops for the entire year. In 2012 that number increased to 2,400. As of the end of July, there have been 3,800 traffic stops so far this year.
This breaks down to an average of 58.3 traffic stops per month in 2011, 200 per month in 2012, and 475 per month in 2013.
If current rates continue for 2013, McMullen County could end the year with 5,700 traffic stops. With a voting population of only 700 people living in McMullen County’s 1,100 square miles, it is likely that the majority of the traffic stops are from newcomers and traffic just passing through.
Shelton said the increase in activity correlated with the Eagle Ford Shale’s development.
“But, when the Eagle Ford hit, we have 5,000-6,000 people on rigs, in man camps, and everybody is in a hurry and everybody is overworked and not getting enough sleep and trying to get from point A to point B as fast as they can,” Shelton said. “This has become the norm and as long as the Eagle Ford is here it will continue to be the norm.”
McMullen County Sheriff’s Department has nearly tripled its staff in an effort to keep up with the unprecedented increase in traffic stops. In 2011 there was a staff of three for the entire county. That number is now up to eight patrol deputies, an investigator, a chief deputy and three part-time deputies.
Shelton said the staff increase is making a difference in keeping the roads safer.
“The number one threat to safety in McMullen County is the traffic, and due to the diligence of the deputies they are making a difference in making it safer to traverse from (point) A to (point) B,” Shelton said.
Traffic stops aren’t the only thing that’s on the rise. Shelton said they used to make six arrests that were mostly for warrants, but in July they made 24. He said the arrests varied, everything from driving without a license, possession of marijuana, driving while intoxicated, warrants, and child support warrants.
“The thing is, you get this influx of people and all their problems they bring with them” Shelton said. “It is part of this boom; that part was unexpected but we are dealing with it.”
However, an increased workload and staffing isn’t the only challenge McMullen County Sheriff’s Department is facing. Much like McMullen County Independent School District, housing is also an issue that needed to be solved.
“We are so far away from everything down here and housing is at a premium,” Shelton said. “There wasn’t housing before Eagle Ford and there really isn’t any now.”
Shelton said they currently have “four-and-a-half” housing units and will soon have six. The half-unit is what the sheriff’s department refers to as “the doghouse.” Sheriff’s department staff stay at “the doghouse” for three days at a time and then commute back home afterward.
The rest of the housing units are all trailers – one of which is a double-wide they acquired from a repossession.
“We are on a budget and trying to maintain the best we can,” Shelton said.
McMullen County commissioners recently approved purchasing a house in Calliham. It will be the sheriff’s department’s first slab-built house.
Shelton said the reason for the house in Calliham is to disperse its staff across the county and have a presence in Calliham.
The majority of the sheriff’s department housing was put into place under the direction of former McMullen County Sheriff Bruce Thomas.
“We are trying to get it set up to where our people are comfortable. They like working here but housing was a big issue,” Shelton said. “My predecessor was a forward thinker.”