CENTREVILLE — Issues facing Queen Anne’s residents are a top priority for incumbent Sheriff Gary Hofmann. Three of those — the opioid epidemic, critical incident response, and traffic — rank among Hofmann’s top priorities, he said.
Hofmann, a Republican, is finishing his third term as sheriff and seeking a fourth. He is committed more than ever to being proactive in addressing the needs of the community, he said.
The opioid epidemic, said Hofmann, is a top concern for not only the loss of life, but also because it drives a lot of other crimes within the county.
Individuals dependent on illegal substances often see their life spiral, and employment and family dynamics shift due to the addiction issue, said Hofmann. That often translates into after breaking and entering, petty theft, domestic violence, and subsequent overdoses contributing to crime statistics within the county.
Hofmann said data confirms increased theft of items like scrap metal, thefts at the outlets, and other crimes occurring are to the opioid epidemic.
Hofmann said the office is reaching out to businesses, churches and communities to provide training on how to respond if a critical incident were to occur, what steps to take, and most importantly how to be taking preventative action.
“If you see something, say something,” Hofmann said. Notifying law enforcement of alarming activity or other concerns is key to preventing an incident, he said.
Noting two mass incidents that happened in Maryland last year, he said it is dangerous to have a false sense of security because we live in a smaller community. “Focusing on prevention is key,” said Hofmann.
Traffic is another issue of concern, said Hofmann. Eastbound traffic rarely sees a back up, but in the event of back ups heading west, Hofmann has had deputies staged at exits to encourage motorist to stay on U.S. Route 50, because it is the quickest route to the Bay Bridge.
Hofmann said he wants to be proactive not reactive, especially with the traffic issue.
The sheriff’s office is now home to five K-9s and four handlers. The dogs are trained in narcotics detection, explosives detection and tracking, he said.
Body cameras were also implemented for the entire agency and use of the cameras has gained the support of staff, Hofmann said.
The cameras protect not only deputies but also community members and allow for accurate documentation. It is important to be transparent, said Hofmann, and using cameras provides an extra level of transparency, “You can see what we saw.” With the cameras, complaints of personnel are at record low levels, he said.
“We want to encourage public trust and ensure accountability,” he said.
Speeding is a constant concern within communities. Hofmann said he has been working on educating communities and asking them to also speak with their neighbors about slowing speeds, and providing signs that can be placed in their yards. One such sign reads,”Keep kids alive, Drive 25.” Speed reduction is often a self correcting behavior, Hofmann said, and he hopes by creating awareness, residents to be more conscientious.
With a large geographical area to cover, Hofmann said he has been dedicated in keeping a deputy stationed in the Church Hill/Kingstown area and another between Sudlersville and Templeville, in addition to the school resource officers that cover those areas while school is in session. There are now at least two deputies in the north county at all times, Hofmann said.
The office is also at an all-time high for retention levels and has greater diversity of women and minorities than ever before, he said.
“We are consistently changing and looking at other agencies and data, always evolving to the most current technology trends in policing,” he said. “We continually ask what we can do to better serve the public.”
Getting updates out to the community is one thing Hofmann said he aims to improve. An app for the Queen Annes Sheriff’s Office for both Android and iOS platforms is in the works and will provide access to up-to-date information, he said.
The office has also achieved accreditation as a police agency through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, said Hofmann, a status less than 10 percent of agencies in the country have attained, and that keeps them compliant to state, federal, and local standards.
Hofmann said he shares the office’s success with good qualified staff.
This year, Hofmann said the sheriff’s office was able to return $500,000 to the county out of their budget. Of the 12 years he has been in office, they have been at or below budget each year, he said.
“Utilizing federal and state grants and looking also at how to save taxpayer dollars, for example, converting certain reports from paper to digital, we are able to achieve a high level of quality policing that the community expects while being good stewards of county funds,” he said.
After graduating from high school, Hofmann began training for his lifelong goal of becoming a police officer. That was 29 years ago, and today he is still as passionate and dedicated to aiding and protecting citizens, knowing this is a career and not a retirement position, he said.
Hofmann was one of 30 individuals worldwide to be selected for the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar held in June 2010. This training was an extensive two-week course held in Fredericksburg, VA.
He is also proud to have been selected to participate in the January 2009 FBI National Academy Class 236. Participation is by invitation only through a nomination process. Courses were taught by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency. In March 2009, Hofmann graduated from the FBI National Academy.
His current affiliations and/or partnerships include among others: Maryland Emergency Management Agency; Maryland State Police; Department of Homeland Security; Homeland Security Chairman (MSA); Institute of Police Technology and Management; Drug Task Force Chairman (Queen Anne’s County); Criminal Investigation and Drug Detection; Governor’s Victim Services Board; Collision Reconstruction and Advanced Accident Investigation; Domestic Violence Partnerships; Incident Command Systems Immigrations and Customs; Social Services and Allied Police Agencies; Crime Prevention through Environmental Design; Terrorism Awareness and Target Hardening; and Active Shooter Response. He is a graduate of the National Sheriff’s Institute
Hofmann, his wife, Olga, and their daughter, Alexandra, reside in Queen Anne’s County and have with strong family ties to the community, he said. Hofmann added his older children, Laura and Joey, were raised in the county as well.
“My focus is to ensure that your family and mine remain safe and have a secure, safe and drug free community in which to raise our families in a safe and secure Queen Anne’s County, not just today but for generations to come,” Hofmann said.