By Joseph Sapia
Both candidates for Monmouth County sheriff, Republican incumbent Shaun Golden and Democrat challenger Jeff Cantor, agree the most pressing issue in this race is heroin abuse.
Golden, 49, who has been sheriff for seven years and an undersheriff two years before that, is using an approach of direct law enforcement and education.
His office is providing education for both adults and youth, including the “Reach For Your Dreams” program in which recovering addicts meet with students from seventh grade to high school and help organize youth anti-drug use activities.
The Sheriff’s Office also works with pharmacists to recognize fake prescriptions. It has partnered with other law enforcement agencies to organize unwanted prescription drug drop-offs for proper disposal. Under Golden’s tenure the office has added six narcotics-sniffing dogs.
“It’s a multi-prong approach,” said Golden, a former police officer in Toms River and Colts Neck.
Cantor, 50, said, if elected, he would form a joint task force that would incorporate law enforcement, recovering addicts, counselors, doctors and pharmaceutical companies.
“There’s not a comprehensive strategy,” said Cantor, who has been a member of the Marlboro Township Council for 12 years. “It really comes down to treatment, recovery and education. It’s a growing problem, everyone’s affected by this problem.”
The sheriff’s office performs a number of roles: law enforcement, running the county jail in Freehold Township, operating emergency services dispatching, providing security at the Monmouth County Courthouse in Freehold, and running county-wide emergency management.
Cantor, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, also wants to form another unit, one focused on dealing with terrorism. Cantor said he was concerned with “soft targets,” such as boardwalks, movie theaters, railroad stations and houses of worship. The unit would recommend ways these various locales could secure themselves, do patrols and be made aware of explosives.
“The whole purpose is to keep our children and families safe,” said Cantor, chief operating officer for Gladius Health.
Golden said his office is already dealing with domestic and foreign terrorist threats. The Sheriff’s office is using license plate readers to see if vehicles are associated with criminal activity; security cameras; working jointly with municipalities; and teaching private groups how to recognize suspicious activity.
Cantor suggested a more cohesive operational approach, one incorporating emergency management, communications, firefighting, emergency medical services and private entities to work together to mitigate problems before they happen.
“Then, you can focus on applying resources to these problem spots,” Cantor said.
About 25 towns, or more than 100 emergency response agencies, use the Sheriff’s 911 telephone system, Golden said. But Cantor said the communications system needs to be improved, including regional dispatchers needing to better understand local areas and better communication equipment for emergency responders.
Golden pointed to various accomplishments in his office, such as a Special Needs Registry for tracking people with autism, dementia, or physical disabilities. Dispatchers and personnel responding to emergencies at an address with a special needs person will know the situation they are walking into and how to deal with it if the person is in the registry.
During 2012’s Super Storm Sandy, 72,000 people were evacuated and 5,000 sheltered, with no loss of life, Golden said.
“We’ve done a lot,” said Golden, an adjunct professor at Monmouth University. “We’re moving right along.”
Cantor questioned Golden serving as sheriff, whose budget is determined by the county Board of Freeholders, and serving as county Republican chairman, who oversees the campaigns of the all-GOP freeholder board.
“He controls the freeholders and they control his budget,” Cantor said.
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