CELEBRATE CHEROKEE COUNTY: County has safety in numbers
52 Things to Celebrate About Cherokee County: No. 27 – Local Law Enforcement Agencies
With at least nine law enforcement agencies working Cherokee County, it’s hard not to feel at least a little safe.
Crime happens everywhere, and Cherokee County presents geographic challenges for officers trying to protect the citizens in its 452 square miles. It is 54 miles from Wolf Creek to Topton, and that’s just along U.S. 19/74 through the county.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office has the primary responsibility for protecting the county, with 30 sworn deputies. Sheriff Derrick Palmer, who has been in office since 2014, has helped initiate a program to refurbish the fleet of patrol cars assisting deputies in patrolling the county.
“We’ve been able to patrol better,” Palmer said. “We try to keep at least four on shift 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I always feel like we need more coverage in those far-reaching areas, but we have tried harder to get into those areas more.”
The Cherokee County Detention Center in Murphy houses local prisoners as well as federal and tribal inmates when necessary. The many agencies in the county have a good working relationship, equipping them to handle nearly any situation.
The main number at the sheriff’s office is 837-2589, and for emergencies, always dial 911.
The Cherokee Indian Police are responsible for law enforcement on tribal lands, including at Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel. Tribal police also patrol the other 14 parcels of tribal land in the county.
Chief Doug Pheasant’s officers have a strong mutual aid agreement with Palmer’s deputies.
“We rely on them, and they rely on us,” Palmer said. “We answer calls on tribal property if they are tied up in Cherokee or Snowbird. We have helped them at the casino.”
The tribal police also have a SWAT team, which Palmer has called on to assist with standoffs and other major events. The tribe’s SWAT team is equipped with a riot vehicle capable of dealing with treacherous weather and combat situations.
The tribal police are located at 137 Seven Clans Lane in Cherokee and can be reached at 828-359-6600.
Town police departments
Cherokee County is blessed with two municipal police departments to help with the city limits of Murphy and Andrews.
The Murphy Police Department has nine officers who patrol within the area from near Snap-on Drive off U.S. 19/74 to the east, to the end of the lowered speed limit near Big D to the west, a mile past Texaco on Joe Brown Highway and to the long bridge on U.S. 64 East.
Chief Justin Jacobs and his men also patrol other town-owned property, like Piney Knob Trails, whenever the road is passable. He echoed the importance of working with other agencies.
“It’s almost a necessity if you want to get anything done,” Jacobs said. “We have a good network of sharing information and helping each other out.”
Murphy Police are located at 93 Peachtree St. in Murphy, and can be reached at 837-2214.
Andrews Police is looking to rebuild after seeing most of its officers move on to other agencies, then seeing a new chief and group of part-timers leave after a short stint.
The new administrative chief is J.J. Wooten, formerly of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, who is looking to turn things around for the town.
“Right now, I’m just trying to get people hired, get some cars moving and make our presence known again in town,” Wooten said. “I’m tired of seeing the problems they have been having down here, and I am tired of seeing the chief turnover. We need to get this going so we can take the burden off the sheriff’s office as much as we can.”
Andrews recently passed a new budget plan, and the intention is for three other full-time officers and four part-timers. Wooten, who will become interim chief once his paperwork is finished, has several applications he plans to process with the Board of Aldermen to come up with some new hires.
Andrews Police are at 101 Main St. in the Andrews Town Hall building and can be reached at 321-9814.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission enforces all regulations regarding boating, hunting, fishing and trapping.
There are two officers in Cherokee County, two in Macon County and one in Clay County in this patrol area. Lt. Brock Auvil, the former sergeant for the area, will oversee the entire district from Asheville west.
Wildlife officers assist with search and rescue operations, potential drownings, boating accidents and lost hikers in backwoods country areas. The commission also hosts safety courses for wildlife activities.
The state number to report wildlife violations is 800-662-7137. The number to call if you have a problem with an animal, like a bear on your property or raccoons in the attic, is 866-318-2401.
The U.S. and N.C. Forest Services work out of Cherokee County and patrol federal and state forest lands.
The N.C. Forest Service office is in Peachtree near Tri-County Community College. The ranger for the county is Charles Choplin, who can be reached at 837-5426.
Andy Gaston is the new ranger for the U.S. Forest Service, covering the Cheaoh and Tusquittee districts. Gaston has been on the job since May 29.
Rick DeVore is the lone U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer in Cherokee County.
“He concentrates on the public safety of visitors to our national forests, as well as protecting our natural resources,” Gaston said of DeVore’s duties. “He will be busy during the Fourth of July week making sure everyone enjoying our recreational facilities is safe, and he also works closely with local law enforcement.”
The U.S. Forest Service is at 123 Woodland Drive in Murphy and can be reached at 837-5152.
N.C. Highway Patrol
There are six state troopers stationed in Cherokee County who patrol state and U.S. highways for speeders and other suspicious vehicular activity. Sgt. David Williams is the commander for Cherokee County.
N.C. troopers work accident scenes from end-to-end of the county, as well as assisting with felony stops and other drug interdiction that results from traffic stops.
Cherokee County’s troopers assist with Clay County when their forces are undermanned.
The main office for the Highway Patrol for this area is at 2650 Governors Island Road in Bryson City and can be reached at 828-488-2184
Tennessee Valley Authority
The TVA has one officer based in Murphy, who works cases up to Johnson City, Tenn., along with one in Ocoee, Tenn., and another in north Georgia.
TVA monitors public lands as well as the dam facilities in the region, and they work to prevent potential acts of terrorism before they formulate. TVA officers are employed by the federal government and provide support to local law enforcement where appropriate.
According to the TVA web site, their officers are “security professionals (who) continually assess the threats facing the energy sector to ensure that TVA’s security posture meets or exceeds industry standards.”
TVA police can be reached toll free at 855-476-2489.