His title may be Chatham County Sheriff, yet the man who holds that office is known to most in the community simply as “Mike.”
Mike Roberson, who’s seeking a second four-year term in November, doesn’t mind. Appointed to the position in 2016 and then reelected to a four-year term in 2018, Roberson says one of the strengths of his tenure as sheriff has been his belief in treating everyone “like family,” including those in custody.
“I have worked diligently to build and maintain positive relationships with community members by listening and remaining open to ideas,” Roberson, 54, a Democrat, said. “I love helping people and want to continue to serve my home community.”
The incumbent sheriff has had several roles within the Chatham County community, including serving as a firefighter, emergency medical technician, jail administrator and chief deputy within the sheriff’s department.
Roberson said his ability to be a “uniter” and those strong relationships he’s developed as a Chatham County native are factors which make him a better candidate than his Republican challenger, Marcus Globuschutz.
In his next term as sheriff, Roberson’s focus would be “building on the successes we have already accomplished together” and continuing “to unite residents around shared goals and values,” he said.
Other specific goals include keeping Chatham as “one of the safest counties” in the state of North Carolina and increasing the value and availability of programming and services available at the Animal Resource Center.
Those two areas — the question of how effectively Roberson’s administration is policing the county, especially in regard to the illicit drug trade, and his department’s operation of the ARC — are the chief points of criticism Globuschutz has raised again and again during his own campaign for sheriff.
“Chatham County continues to have one of the lowest crime and incarceration rates in the state,” Roberson responded. He added that Globuschutz’s use of some percentages rather than real numbers is misleading.
Some crime statistics are up nationwide, Roberson said, but the overall trends in Chatham County show a positive direction.
“So if you look at the crime stats over the last 10 years, it’s steadily going down,” he said. “You’ll notice he [Globuschutz] talks about percentages, not numbers. The reason you talk about percentages is that when it’s a small number to start off with, it’s not far to get a large percentage — just a little bit of increase in numbers. We have very, very, very little violent crime in Chatham County. Most of what we have is property crime, which is not violent crime. And so when you start talking about crime stats, it can get confusing — and he’s talking about a blip on the bubble, instead of the long trend.
“And so the violent crime went up and 2019 to 2020, because of COVID,” Roberson continued. “And the violent crime that went up is assault, which is domestic. Who would have thought us being home together with each other more for a whole year that domestic crime numbers would go up?
Roberson also said during the pandemic, with more people staying at or near home, property crime went down.
“Now, it’s not out there, what the 2021 stats are,” Roberson said. “I do know what the Sheriff’s Office numbers are: violent crime, when everybody went back to work, went down slightly, and property crime edged back up.”
Roberson said the increase has more to do with more people not being at home than, as Globuschutz claims, Roberson’s staff “not responding to or not answering calls.”
“There’s not been a call we’ve not answered,” he said. “We’ve answered 29,000 calls this year and have had more than 45,000 responses.”
Those responses are more effective, he said, because of the work his staff does behind the scenes to build relationships.
“This is a testament to the strength of our shared community and to the teamwork and partnerships actively working behind the scenes to prevent crime and reduce drug addiction,” he continued. “Almost a decade ago, there was a nationwide surge in the number of overdose deaths which were later linked to opioids or their derivatives. No community could escape this wave forever, including Chatham County. The opioid epidemic hit us hard in 2013, and has never gone away, but we have taken steps to mitigate the effects of the crisis by focusing on prevention, targeting underlying causes of addiction, expanding resources to treat addiction and break the cycle, and networking with community leaders and residents to better meet their needs. As sheriff, I will continue to support these efforts and save lives.”
Roberson’s department is responsible for four primary duties: operation of the county jail, opening and closing of the county’s court, civil process, and keeping the peace. Just over three years ago, it was handed another: the operation of the ARC.
The ARC had been a part of the health department, but was merged into the Sheriff’s Office in the summer of 2019. So Roberson was given the responsibility by the county for the ARC, he says, but not the staff required to operate it — something he continues to ask for from commissioners.
Regardless, he says, the ARC — counter to what Globuschutz claims — is “making a positive impact for animals and families across the county,” with adoption rates doubling and euthanasia rates cut in half over that three-year period.
Public safety, addressing crime and upholding the law, though, are the chief tasks of any sheriff administration. Like other law enforcement agencies — including the police departments in both Siler City and Pittsboro — staff shortages have made that more difficult.
Roberson said the COVID pandemic and the turmoil of the last two years has prompted “a revaluation of what quality of life is to people” across the country, particularly with work and work-life balance. The nation shortage of law enforcement personnel has impacted his department as well.
“But I will tell you in the last three months, we’ve had a lot of people want to come to the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office,” he said.
Part of the “rigorous professional standards” Roberson insists on in his office includes a shared belief in, and commitment to, the idea of community policing — “non-enforcement” encounters with his staff at churches, on the streets, at community events.
“This is something Sheriff (Richard) Webster started in 2022,” he said. “And it has been great. We solve more crime at these community events, because people might not tell ‘the sheriff’ what’s going on. But they will tell Mike, and I want them to know me as ‘Mike.’”
Law enforcement can’t effectively address the needs of the community without being engaged, accessible and present at important community functions, he said.
“Too often, law enforcement agencies attempt to operate or affect change separate from their communities, with disastrous consequences,” Roberson said. “Simply put, the greatest good can be accomplished by working together with residents, from the inside out. “
“Our staff members recognize that we cannot resolve issues or prevent crime without the partnership of community members. We will continue to show our love for this community by supporting efforts, events, and causes that elevate and uplift Chatham County as a whole.”
To read more about the Roberson’s platform and view his full responses to candidate questionnaires visit chathamnewsrecord.com/elections. The general midterm elections will be on Nov. 8. Early voting runs from Oct. 20 through Nov. 5. To find your polling location, visit vt.ncsbe.gov/PPLkup/.