The Collin County Sheriff’s Office is composed of four Bureaus: the Law Enforcement Operations Bureau, the Services Bureau, the Special Operations Bureau, and the Detention Bureau, which is located within the Adult Detention Facility. The North Texas Fusion Center also operates within the Sheriff’s Office.
The dedicated and professional staff of the Sheriff’s Office are responsible for many important successes. They are a critical part of the public-safety infrastructure. They have done a tremendous job in providing an array of services in this, the second fastest growing county in the United States. I can’t express my appreciation and admiration for them enough. These notes highlight just a few of their accomplishments over the last few years.
Law-Enforcement & Special Operations
Law Enforcement operations include patrol, traffic enforcement, commercial motor vehicle enforcement, a lake patrol, a dive team, K-9’s, criminal interdiction, a crimes against children section and child exploitation unit, a criminal investigations division, a fugitive apprehension team, an environmental crimes section and the special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team.
Patrol. After taking office in January 2017 and beginning to assess things, Sheriff Skinner realized that the County needed to enlarge the Patrol Section to keep pace with population growth and road construction. The Sheriff’s Office patrols nearly 500 square miles of unincorporated area in the county and serves over 65,000 residents.
In August 2017, Sheriff Skinner approached the Commissioners Court, and the Court authorized additional officers, vehicles, and equipment for patrol in the FY2018 budget.
In 2018, the Sheriff’s Office began to enlarge and re-configure Patrol. The SO hired and trained more deputy sheriffs for this purpose. Leadership reconfigured patrol into four platoons, each working 12-hour shifts on off-setting schedules. In 2019, the Commissioners Court created new corporal positions in Patrol to enhance street-level supervision.
Patrol deputies are some of the most visible and versatile officers in the Sheriff’s Office. They respond to 9-1-1 and other calls for service, assist all those they encounter, enforce traffic regulations, and respond to traffic accidents. They respond to every type of call from distressed persons to suspicious persons, property crimes, and domestic violence. In addition, patrol deputies are team players. They routinely work with patrol officers from area police departments, game wardens and highway-patrol officers, or troopers, from the Texas Dept. of Public Safety.
For several years, the expansion project has worked well. Patrol shortened response times to calls for service, and deputies were able to spend a reasonable time assisting persons on each call. But as the population continues to grow, and the State and the County continue to build new roads. Response times are beginning to creep up, and the average time a deputy spends at a call is shrinking. Sheriff Skinner can foresee the need to add patrol deputies and related supervisors. He can also foresee that soon, the County may want to build patrol substations in parts of the unincorporated area to reduce driving and response times.
Lake Lavon. Lake Lavon covers over 21,000 acres in the southeast part of the county, and it has just over 120 miles of shoreline. For years, the Sheriff’s Office has supported the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in patrolling the lake and assisting persons and enforcing boating and other laws.
The lake is important. Many people enjoy taking their families boating, fishing, or just to enjoy the outdoors. In 2022–23, the Sheriff’s Office has made a special effort to increase a patrol presence on the lake, in all the parks and on the shore. In 2023, the Patrol Section added two jet skis and an all-terrain vehicle to its equipment inventory, and deputies use them to patrol and assist boaters on and around the lake in the summer. Sheriff Skinner can see that a time will come when Lake Lavon will become its own patrol district.
Traffic and CMVE. As part of their duties, patrol deputies enforce traffic laws, assist stranded motorists, and respond to accidents. Related deputies enforce various weight and safety standards with respect to semi-trailer trucks and other commercial-motor vehicles. This is important given the explosive growth of the county and the significant increase in the number of heavy vehicles on our roads. Because of growth, the Commissioners Court authorized additional deputy positions for traffic and DWI enforcement in the FY2023 budget. The Sheriff’s Office is working on hiring and training new deputies now.
NTXCIU. In 2017, Sheriff Skinner and sheriffs from seven nearby counties formed the North Texas Criminal Interdiction Unit to leverage their jurisdiction over miles of North Texas highways to fight smuggling by the drug cartels and other organized crime.
Over the years, the NTXCIU has succeeded tremendously. These specialized interdiction deputies have arrested hundreds of suspects for a variety of smuggling or trafficking offenses; seized tons of illicit drugs ranging from fentanyl to methamphetamine, heroin, and marijuana; seized millions in bulk Cartel cash; and seized numerous military-style and other weapons and ammunition destined for Mexico. In unrelated operations, these deputies even rescued two children from adult suspects.
NTXCIU deputies help keep Collin, Grayson, Hunt, Parker, Rockwall, Smith, Tarrant, and Wise Counties safe. By extension, their work helps keep the Metroplex, other parts of the State and the country safe as well. Sheriff Skinner works hard to continue and expand their operations and their access to intelligence and data to fight the drug cartels.
CID. The investigators, criminalists, and others in the Criminal Investigations Division work to investigate and solve all types of state crimes, including crimes against persons and property crimes. They support the Criminal District Attorney’s Office in prosecutions as well. Over the past several years, they have continued CID’s tradition of investigating and solving a high percentage of cases and assisting in successful prosecutions. As the population and caseloads grow, however, Sheriff Skinner can foresee the need to add additional investigators to manage caseloads, maintain solve rates, and address new types of crime, such as internet fraud and elder abuse.
CAC. Working with multi-disciplinary experts at the Children’s Advocacy Center of Collin County, specialized investigators in the Sheriff’s Office and from local police departments focus on crimes against children. They sort and assess a growing number of reports and investigate a growing caseload.
CEU. These investigators fight online sexual exploitation of children, including predators who use chat rooms and social media to lure children and adults who traffic in child-sexual-abuse material (child pornography). Pursuing Sheriff Skinner’s zero-tolerance policy on child predation in operations like Medusa, Zeus, Athena, and Atlas, these officers have arrested over 300 adult suspects, including several who traveled from out of state to meet children. They have also seized terabytes of CSAM images.
GHOST. In 2017, Sheriff Skinner coordinated with the U.S. Marshal’s Service to track felony fugitives. In 2017–2018, teams of deputy sheriffs and marshals tracked and captured fugitives and cleared over 1,000 backlogged warrants. In 2021, he formed the Gang & Habitual Offender Strike Team “GHOST” unit, and it has continued to arrest many dozens of wanted persons each year.
SWAT. In light of mass crimes such as the shootings at the Allen Premium Outlets Mall in May 2023, Sheriff Skinner decided to re-organize a formal SWAT team. In FY2022, the Commissioners Court approved funding for training and equipment, and, in FY2023, supervisors selected and trained deputies for the team. Late in the calendar year, the new team successfully arrested several high-risk suspects without incident.
Collin County Detention Facility
Built between 1994 and 2007, the CCDF consists of a four-cluster main jail with 1,106 beds and a 24-bed infirmary, and a minimum-security facility with 192 beds.
Staff. As in most corrections facilities across the nation, a changing economy has forced the CCDF to focus on recruiting and retention the last few years. The Professional Standards Section (PSS) in the Sheriff’s Office and the County’s Human Resources Dept. have innovated new ways to recruit new detention officers.
In August 2021, Sheriff Skinner appointed a new Jail Administrator, and he and other supervisors have implemented several changes to improve inmate management, work processes, and culture.
In the FY2024 budget, the Commissioners authorized 14 new detention officer positions and two new detention-sergeant positions. In addition, the Court authorized substantial pay raises, which Sheriff Skinner believes will fairly compensate the jail staff, and improve recruitment and retention.
IGNITE. After Sheriff Chris Swanson, Genesee County, MI, conceived and successfully implemented this program, the National Sheriffs’ Association has supported and sponsored county jails in adopting IGNITE to expand and modernize inmate education and job training to improve re-entry and reduce recidivism. Using online lectures, classes, and readings, as well as some virtual reality training, IGNITE offers inmates a wider range of educational, GED, and life-skills courses, as well as various job-skill certifications. In April 2023, Sheriff Skinner announced that the CCDF would be first in Texas to implement this innovative program.
Other Programs. In conjunction with IGNITE, Sheriff Skinner and his staff are trying other novel programs. For example, the county jail has long operated an inmate farm for eligible inmates. The jail inmates consume most of the produce and the remainder is donated to food banks and other non-profits. In February 2021, Sheriff Skinner added beekeeping and related equipment and training to the farm, where hundreds of pounds of honey are harvested each year. As another example, in 2023, the State certified the county jail’s new Barber College, and it will soon begin offering new training and certifications.
Visitation. Because most persons in a county jail have charges pending, they need to communicate with both their friends and family and their attorneys. In 2023, the CCDF has started to explore the use of tablets and other technologies to improve inmate communications and visitation. They will continue these efforts in the near future.
Expansion. To keep pace with growth, the County is building a new infirmary with just over 400 beds, a new admissions area, and a new 180-bed orientation-housing cluster for the CCDF. The new infirmary will include several hundred beds for acute and subacute mental-health care.
As noted, the Commissioners Court authorized 14 new detention-officer positions and two new detention-sergeant positions for the FY2024 budget, and most of these personnel will work in these new facilities. Sheriff Skinner is working with his senior staff to plan effective ways to recruit and train the new staff needed for these additional facilities that will come online over the next three years.
Dispatch. Dispatchers answer 9-1-1 and other calls and then dispatch first responders, such as deputy sheriffs, police officers, or firefighters, as needed. They are the communications backbone of public safety, and they are often unsung heroes.
With population growth, the dispatch workload has grown. The Communications Center in the Sheriff’s Office hired and trained substantial new staff in the last few years. In 2021–2023, dispatch supervisors attended formal leadership classes and expanded staff training. To maintain a positive culture, they revised office communications and implemented family-priority measures to improve dispatchers’ ability to take leave.
In a particularly notable achievement, the dispatch staff developed procedures to handle new duties to provide more information from state databases to peace officers in the field. The 87th Legislature imposed these new duties in SB 6 and HB 766, which took effect in September 2021.
Transports. This unit transports detained persons between the county jail and jails in non-contiguous counties. With population growth and the restoration of more in-person proceedings at the courthouse after the end of the statewide pandemic disaster, this unit has transported record numbers of persons over the last two years.
Mental Health. The number of persons who suffer from mental illness or an intellectual or developmental disability in the county is growing. Some of them suffer homelessness or substance-use problems as well. A small but persistent percentage of these people routinely come into contact with law enforcement and the county jail because of their mental illness or disability. To improve response to this population, Sheriff Skinner is reorganizing the mental-health unit and updating its policies and procedures, Under the FY2024 budget, which the Commissioners Court recently approved, Sheriff Skinner will also appoint a new sergeant to lead the mental health unit.
North Texas Fusion Center. The fusion center monitors open-source social-media and internet traffic to identify threats to persons, schools, and events in North Central Texas. As a member of the state’s network of fusion centers, NTFC also investigates its share of tips and leads from the state’s iWatchTexas system. The NTFC prepares hundreds of intelligence products each year, from bulletins on public-safety risks to situational-awareness reports.
School Safety Center. Sheriff Skinner and the NTFC Director, on the one hand, and superintendents from area school districts and headmasters from area private schools, on the other, have been discussing a proposal to start a new unit in the NTFC to focus on threats to students, faculties, schools, and school events in the County. A fusion center can monitor for risks in ways that schools can’t easily do for themselves. Funding will be an obstacle, and this project remains in the early stages.
Like other elected officials, Sheriff Skinner is constantly looking ahead to future public-safety needs. Not only is Collin County expanding the county jail with a new 400-bed infirmary, a 180-bed orientation-housing cluster, and a new admissions area, but the County will need to furnish and equip these new facilities as well. The County must hire, equip, and train the additional staff, too.
To maintain the level and variety of services as the population continues to grow, the County will need to add personnel to the law-enforcement, services, and special operations bureaus as well. As the County continues this explosive growth, our citizens will need more patrol deputies, more investigators, more criminalists and evidence handlers, more dispatchers, and more records staff.
Needs, techniques, and technologies change as well. As noted, Sheriff Skinner and the NTFC Director have discussed with local school district superintendents a proposal to add a new unit to the North Texas Fusion Center to monitor publicly available internet and social-media traffic for threats to public and private schools. This would require additional analysis and equipment.
Members of Congress have proposed various measures to fight online threats, from online trafficking of illicit drugs and counterfeit prescription medication to online circulation of child sexual-abuse material. At some point, Sheriff Skinner suspects that these efforts will lead to new federal-local task forces or other forms of cooperation to detect and respond to threats. Local agencies will need new training and new equipment, and some will need more personnel.
Sheriff Skinner is grateful for the Collin County Commissioner’s Court’s strong support of public safety. All this serves to help us make our communities safer places to live.