Cornelius leaders question traffic operation conducted by Mecklenburg County deputies

CORNELIUS, N.C. — Mecklenburg County deputies recently set up a speed trap in Cornelius that has some town leaders asking questions.

Deputies wrote about two dozen tickets within two hours on a half-mile stretch of Jetton Road Sunday afternoon.

“My staff in that zone, who serve civil papers and things of that sort, they noticed a rash of speeders in that area,” said Maj. Henry Magwood, who oversees field operations for the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office.

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Mecklenburg County deputies primarily handle civil matters by delivering court paperwork and oversee the county jail and courthouse. In fact, traffic enforcement is not listed as a division in the Sheriff’s Office on its website.

Magwood told Eyewitness News anchor Liz Foster we can expect to see deputies do more traffic operations.

“I want everybody to know the sheriff has jurisdictional powers throughout the county and that includes all the townships and local cities within the county. We want to make everyone safe, not just the ones within our city limits,” Magwood said.

The speed trap caught Cornelius Town Commissioner Kurt Naas off guard, when his wife spotted the swarm of deputy cars.

“She came home rather distraught wondering given the law enforcement presence if there was perhaps a fugitive on the loose or maybe an active shooter because there was a swarm of Mecklenburg County sheriff squad cars,” Naas told Channel 9.

He wants the sheriff to come to the town commission’s next meeting to explain why deputies did this operation without coordinating with the local police department.

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“We have a number of questions: Why did the sheriff pick Cornelius? Why a Sunday afternoon? Why 15 deputies? Why speed enforcement?" Naas said. "And why would you send that level of resources, of all days, up to Cornelius when you have a national event going on down in Charlotte?”

Magwood said the department will try to give local authorities more notice going forward with these types of operations. The Sheriff’s Office plans to send a representative to the next Cornelius town meeting to answer questions from town commissioners.

Additionally, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office sent Channel 9 the following statement:

The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office has territorial jurisdiction and the authority to take law enforcement action anywhere in Mecklenburg County including the townships that fall within Mecklenburg County.   The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office did make notification to the Cornelius Police Department as a courtesy just prior to the start of the speed enforcement operation on Jetton Road this past Sunday. No official coordination was needed or required since the Sheriff’s Office was not requesting any additional resources from the Cornelius Police Department.   

The Sheriff’s Office has maintained a positive working relationship with all of the law enforcement agencies operating in Mecklenburg County and will continue to do so.  This was simply a speed enforcement operation and one of many speed enforcement operations that we conduct throughout Mecklenburg County on an ongoing basis.  The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office participates in the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program, a program dedicated to reducing the number of traffic crashes and promoting roadway safety.  Click It or Ticket, Booze It & Lose It and Speed a Little, Lose a Lot are all initiatives under the highway safety program and are done in an effort to keep our roadways and citizens safe.