By Dave Russell, The Sylva Herald

Local law enforcement isn’t immune from the impact of COVID-19, taking a lead role in enforcing the rules and regulations.

“It’s a very difficult and challenging time that we’re in right now,” Jackson County Chief Deputy Kim Hooper said. “We have answered some calls from citizens about numerous places where more than 10 people have gathered, or they have some concerns seeing out-of-state license and we have spoken to those people.”

Deputies informed them of the rules the state and local authorities have laid out, he said.

Newcomers to the county are asked to quarantine for 14 days before moving about the county.

“We have received nothing but 100 percent cooperation from the public,” he said. 

The Sheriff’s Office is still fighting crime.

“The department is not shut down,” Hooper said. “If we have to make arrests, we will make arrests.”

The majority of the calls coming in right now are people concerned about out-of-state license plates, he said. 

The department has not had to bust up any parties or talk to any churches about gathering.

“The majority of the churches are following the guidelines that have been set out,” he said. 

The department has conducted one traffic checkpoint.

“What we did last Friday was community outreach, a safety check on N.C. 107 near Lyle Wilson Road,” he said. “That was just a friendly reminder of the recommendations set out by the Department of Public Health, the state and local authorities – stay home, stay safe.”

Deputies at the checkpoint did not check licenses or look inside cars, he said.

Hooper and his colleagues want everyone to be safe, he said.

“Like everybody is saying, from the president on down to local, take advice from these guidelines set out – stay home and stay safe,” he said. “We want to spread the word and encourage people to make an adjustment to their lifestyle until we get this pandemic behind us.”

Sylva Police Chief Chris Hatton is very pleased with the response from the community, also citing 100 percent cooperation. 

“We’ve had some people call in on some situations that we’ve had to go straighten things out, but not as much as the Sheriff’s Office,” he said. “We were really busy when they came out with the first wave of what needs to be closed, where you can eat, like outdoor dining or not. Everybody we have talked to who was not doing the right thing, after we talked to them, they were like, ‘OK, I misunderstood.’”