John Armer Sees Four Critical Issues Facing County

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John Armer sees four critical issues to deal with as Gila County's sheriff.

"Providing public safety, our overcrowding jails, the drug problem and dealing with all three," Armer said.

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John Armer

With a reduction in revenue these issues are even bigger challenges to deal with in the coming years, he said.

During his seven-year stint as sheriff, Armer says he has made improvements in almost all areas.

The FBI uniform crime report shows that serious crimes are down by half from 2002 to 2007, he said.

This drop is due in part because of the increased number of officers.

Since taking office in 2001 this is the first time the department has almost been completely staffed, Armer said. There are 58 officers now on the force.

Along with having more deputies on the street, "we are also housing more criminals in the jail so they are not out on the streets," he said.

Armer said he does not believe the number of serious crimes is down because people are not reporting them. "People are eager to report crimes."

Last year a registered sex offender Web site was created at www.co.gila.az.us. Level two and three sex offenders are listed along with their address.

Armer says with criminals off the streets and in the jails there is constant overcrowding in the facilities, especially the women's jail.

A number of improvements have been made to jails in Payson and Globe.

The main jail in Globe, built in 1982 and the jail in Payson, built in 1964, have been cleaned, cameras updated, showers improved and overall security increased, he said.

The main issue with the jails is overcrowding. "Other areas of the county have been forced to not accept lower offense criminals," Armer said. "We don't want that to happen here."

The number of female inmates has gone through the roof. There are about 30 females in the jail now with only 18 beds, he said. "We have got to find alternate housing to reduce the overcrowding in the jail."

Armer said he would like to have modular units put in adjacent to the existing facility to house female inmates. This would provide short-term relief until a permanent addition could be fashioned.

Along with the number of inmates increasing, the number choosing to continue their education has increased. 120 inmates over 22 years old completed their General Education Development (GED).

Last year there were 168 drug arrests and 191 general arrests were made and 2.5 pounds of methamphetamine and 922 pounds of marijuana were seized.

"Last week on a traffic stop 2.2 pounds of methamphetamine was recovered," he said.

A highway interdiction team apprehended 133 illegal immigrants.

Along with getting drugs off the streets, drug education is a major propriety to Armer.

There have been 58 anti-drug presentations to more 3,000 citizens.

"We realize every dollar we could spend to prevent crime and keep youngsters from drifting into crime pays back many more times," he said.

A youth leadership program sends campers to Camp Anytown in Prescott each summer.

Armer was born and raised in Globe and has a bachelor's in public administration from the University of Arizona and completed a nine-month traffic police administration course at Northwestern University Traffic Institutes. In 2001 he graduated from the National Sheriffs Institute.

For more than 40 years Armer has been in law enforcement, 24 of those years in management positions. He worked for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office for 21 years and was chief of police in Globe for more than five years.

Armer said he has a strong belief in family.

"I think the break down in families has led to problems we have today," he said.

"A lack of responsibility people have for their own actions has allowed people to continue doing the evil things they do."

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