Nathan Cox – NC Wildlife Officer

Officer Nathanial James Cox.Class of 2015.

Officer Nathaniel James Cox. Class of 2015.

Since he was in the 9th grade at Ashe County High School, Nathan Cox dreamed of becoming a wildlife officer.  He grew up in a law enforcement family – his father, Jim, retired as a sergeant with the North Carolina Highway Patrol.  His family farmed and hunted and fished.  Since childhood, Nathan has felt a closeness and connectedness to the land.  But, it’s not just any land that arouses this physical and emotional attachment.  The Cox family has lived along the Alleghany/Grayson County (VA) line for 13 generations.

So, back in the 9th grade, Nathan began plotting the course he hoped would lead to him becoming a wildlife officer.  He knew the odds were against him.  The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) only has 208 officers spread across North Carolina’s 100 counties.  The turnover rate is low with roughly 15 officers being hired every two years.  To break into those ranks requires an applicant to stand out from the hundreds that apply for those limited slots.

After high school, Nathan attended Wilkes Community College (WCC), studying criminal justice.  During that time he worked two years at Grayson Highlands State Park near Whitetop, Virginia.  There he was involved in educational programming where he honed his presentation skills, guided hikes and canoe trips, and assisted with search and rescue operations.

Knowing that he needed a strong law enforcement background, Nathan then enrolled in the Basic Law Enforcement Training program at WCC.  After graduation from that class, he worked part-time at the West Jefferson Police Department.  He then went to full-time employment with the Alleghany County Sheriff’s Office and later the Sparta Police Department.  With the conservation and educational background from Grayson Highlands and the law enforcement experience with the local departments, Nathan was ready to pursue his dream job.

Nathan applied and was chosen to attend the wildlife officer recruit training in 2015.  The six month course is housed at the North Carolina Justice Academy in Salemburg, NC.  When asked how he would describe the training, Nathan simply said it was “life changing.”  A typical day began at 5:00 am.  The recruits would roll out of bed, get their rooms straightened up and then be ready for physical training (PT) at 5:30.  PT lasted an hour to an hour and a half.  Then it was back to the room to shower and change into their classroom uniform.  Classes began at 8:00 am and ran until 5:00 pm, though some days the classes may stretch well into the night.  Nathan described the schedule as physically and mentally exhausting.  The recruits applied the classroom instruction in realistic training scenarios. The program was intentionally stress filled – the instructors were demanding and pushed the recruits toward a goal of perfection.

After graduation, Nathan was assigned to Stokes County.  Nathan credits his training officer, DJ Woods, with reinforcing the skills Nathan learned in recruit training.  Officer Woods showed Nathan how to apply those skills in day to day patrol.  Most importantly, Nathan said he learned how to go about the business of enforcing the law while treating people respectfully.

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On March 1st, Nathan begins serving the people of Alleghany County.  He hopes to assist with established programs such as the high school hunter skills program and Hunters Helping Kids.  He said he plans to become a part of the community and seeks to do his job fairly.

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The precedent of local residents’ involvement in wildlife conversation has been repeated many times.  Former Sparta Mayor R. Floyd Crouse was instrumental in forming the NCWRC in 1947 and served as a commissioner with the NCWRC from 1947 until 1962.  For his dedication, Crouse was named the North Carolina Conservationist of the Year in 1962 by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation.  WC Phipps left Alleghany County in the 1960s and went on to long career as a wildlife officer in Davie County.  Many other Alleghany citizens continue those conservation efforts today through various sportsmen groups.

A connection to the land that stretches back three centuries and a community of people who value the natural world – this is foundation upon which Nathan Cox’s career will be built.  He sums it up quite succinctly in a drawl that is familiar to all in northwestern North Carolina – “The mountains are in my blood.”

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For more information on how to become a NC Wildlife Enforcement Officer click here

To report wildlife or boating violations call 1-800-662-7137.

Sheriff Bryan Maines – Alleghany County Sheriff’s Office

mainesBryan Maines’ roots run deep into the mountains of Alleghany – his family has been here for generations.  A 20+ year veteran of the Alleghany County Sheriff’s Office, he worked his way through a variety of roles within the department.  He recently completed his first year as sheriff.  I recently sat down with him to review the accomplishments of his first year in office.  Specifically, we talked about new programs that he has initiated or expanded.

Are You Ok?

During his years as a deputy, Sheriff Maines had numerous experiences in which someone called the sheriff’s office and asked them to check on a family member who was responding to a telephone call.  These were often older adults, many of whom lived alone.  Deputies often arrived to find the person had fell and many times laid in the floor for hours before help arrived. In the Are You Ok? program, anyone who is homebound or mobility impaired can register and receive a computer generated call each day at a prearranged time.  If the person fails to answer, a series of checks take place ultimately resulting with a deputy responding to conduct a welfare check.  The program is designed to improve response time in the event someone has an unreported emergency.  The initial cost of the equipment for this program was $1000.

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Drug and Violence Prevention Program

Sheriff Maines recognizes that having a true impact on crime and ensuring a sense of public safety requires a multifaceted approach.  While his department works assertively to attack crime head on through making arrests, Sheriff Maines also recognizes the role of crime prevention strategies.  Through the Drug and Violence Prevention Program, 5th graders in Alleghany County Schools are taught the negative consequences of tobacco, alcohol and drug abuse.  The program also communicates a strong anti-bullying message.  Most important, the students are taught strategies on how to avoid these activities.

Domestic Violence Grant

The sheriff office applied for and received a $100,000 grant that funds two full-time deputies whose duties are focused on domestic violence and sexual assault crimes.  These officers ensure that all sexual offenders are properly entered into the sexual offender registry (this allows anyone to determine if there are sexual offenders in their neighborhood).  The deputies also follow-up on instances of domestic violence and help the families receive assistance in order to prevent future acts of violence. This is a one year grant that must be renewed each year to continue the funding.

Schools

Every school in the county has a deputy visit the school each day.  Sheriff Maines points out that this is not just a quick pass through the parking lot.  The deputies actually go into the schools and spend time getting to know the students.  The visits are equal parts school safety and building relationships in the community.

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Sheriff Maines with Scout Troop 2795

Patrol

Deputies currently patrol 150-200 miles per 12-hour shift.  These patrols have crime detection and crime prevention elements that are intended to keep the community safe.  Sheriff Maines encourages the deputies to get out of their patrol vehicles and to spend time getting to know the people in these communities.

Patrol Vehicles

Five pickup trucks have been rotated out of service and replaced with all-wheel drive vehicles.  These vehicles are more fuel efficient and will result in lower operational costs.  Three more vehicles are in transit and will replace three additional trucks in the near future.  The cost of these new vehicles is covered in part by monies seized as the result of drug arrests.

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Future Goals

  • Reduce Recidivism – The rate of people returning to jail or prison after their release is high. Sheriff Maines wants to address the causative issues and reduce the instances of people falling back into criminal behavior.
  • Community Outreach – Sheriff Maines wants to expand his outreach programs to keep the public better informed. He currently uses social media, speaking to civic groups, the local newspaper and other sources to make the public aware of scams and other potential criminal activity.
  • Church Security Program – Unfortunately, churches are easy targets for criminals. Sheriff Maines wants to offer consulting to churches so they can work to keep their congregations safe.
  • Internet Safety – The recent murder of a young girl in neighboring Virginia reinforces the fact that the Internet can be a dangerous place. Sheriff Maines plans to offer awareness training for families so that all family members can use the Internet safely.

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Two words surface frequently when Sheriff Maines discusses the mindset and focus of the sheriff’s office – proactivity and prevention.  High visibility patrol, a strong visual presence in the courthouse, early intervention and prevention programs, relationship building with citizens of all ages are just a few of the methods used to keep the citizens of Alleghany County safe.  Sheriff Maines is quick to point out that it is a dedicated staff of deputies, detention officers, telecommunicators, and administrative staff that provide this public service.  It may all be summed up as simply neighbors looking out for neighbors.  It is a practice found throughout our county and a trait that is Absolutely Alleghany.

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For more information visit www.alleghanysheriff.org

The photos used were retrieved for the Alleghany County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.