Erie County Sheriff Deputy Greg Hall hopes he is making a difference.
Hall is an Erie County sheriff's deputy but he is classified as a IV-D deputy, meaning he is under contract with Erie County Job and Family Services to conducts investigations, provide security and serves warrants when people do not pay their child support. More than 60 percent of his salary paid by a grant. The rest of his pay comes from Erie County sheriff's office.
Working with JFS provides Hall the feeling he has impact in lives of people he serves. He has more time to talk to people to help them see a better way. He also works hard to better the lives of the children by holding offenders responsible for whatever they may be doing, including fraud or abuse.
“This is a great job,” Hall said.
He has more of a regular schedule, which allows for family time, but he still gets to experience action on the street when he jumps in on a sheriff's call.
I went out with Hall “On The Job” and learned quickly it's a tough job.
First stop was on Harrison Street for a fraud investigation of a woman receiving food stamps and medical help for a 4-year old autistic boy who is actually being taken care of the majority of the time by his grandmother. The assistance should be going to the grandmother.
Hall wanted to talk to grandmother. She was home and came out on the porch to talk to him.
He asked her how often the boy stayed with her and she hesitated. Hall reassured the older woman she was not in trouble and all he wanted was for her to talk to him, he was only looking for the truth.
“We already have information the boy is with you five to six days a week. Is that correct?” Hall asked.
It was obvious the woman was struggling in her mind about what to say. She did not want to do anything that could hurt her daughter, the same person using her. She did confirm, however, the boy was with her most days.
The grandmother and other family members in the house also expressed concern about bruises and scars they frequently see on the little boy's body after he has been with his mother and her boyfriend.
Hall starts to call for a caseworker from children services when he sees the boy's kmother walk out of a home across the street. He waves her over.
Hall documents what is being said. He collects photographs the family took. A second investigation will be opened.
“That turned into something else halfway through,” Hall said after we get back into the cruiser.
“I suspect that happens often,” I said.
It is a sad statement on the world that it not uncommon for one type of case to flow into another case, such as our fraud investigation that became a children services abuse investigation.
He and the boy's mother will get together and talk more later in the afternoon back at Job and Family Services.
We pull out into the street. Hall and I have four criminal warrants to serve for non-payment of child support.
A deputy can travel 100 miles from the county seat to pick up someone they locate who has an active warrant for non-payment of child support.
Today we are staying in Sandusky. Our first stop is a house on Stone Street where Hall is attempting to locate two men with outstanding warrants. If they are home we will serve them both.
No one came to the door. I did not notice anyone peeking out any windows.
We went to talk to neighbor's home, who tells us the men we are looking for are usually outside in the evenings.
At least we know it is a good address.
We move on to an apartment complex on Remington Avenue.
This warrant is for a a woman.
There is no answer at the apartment door. I do not hear anything.
We knock on neighbor's doors.
One neighbor confirms that woman lives in the apartment and remarks she should be home.
Another neighbor tells us she just saw her. We knock at the apartment door again.
Again there is no answer.
This is how it goes.
We spend the afternoon knocking on doors, driving around and talking to different people trying to locate where someone may be or where they may be living at. He would wave and talk to children playing while we unsuccessfully searched for the people with arrest warrants.
People do an awful lot of work to avoid Hall. Funny thing is the jail is full and someone taking care of the warrant has a possibility they would not even see the inside of a cell. It is likely they would simply be given a court date and the opportunity to clear up the warrant by taking care of what they owe.
Erie County Job and Family services has 8,900 active child support cases, said Karen Balconi Ghezzi, executive director Erie County Job and Family Services.
There is about $1 million a month collected in child support payments. Most payments are directly deposited into someone's bank account or sent as a debit card.
The agency has seen a small increase of about 1 percent in child support cases from recent years, she said.
Hall helps when needed in children services cases, including accompanying workers who are removing children from a home.
“Most kids when separated from a parent cry but these kids just come along. That is what is heartbreaking,” Hall said.
There are 103 kids in the county who are now in the custody of Erie County. That is a a significant spike, Ghezzi said.
"Of the parents tested whose children are involved with Children's Services, 52 percent test positive in their drug screens," Ghezzi said.