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Sheriff’s Office creates new unit to handle volume of pistol permit applications

by WayneTimes.com
April 23, 2016

To provide better customer service to the increasing number of gun permit applicants, the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office has established a new unit dedicated to making the application process more efficient.

The new unit is intended to help the office reduce the time between when an individual applies for a pistol permit and when they can be scheduled to have their application processed.

According to Sheriff Barry Virts, six months is the longest wait for a permit appointment that he was willing to accept. In December, he said that they were booking appointments into this coming November, which was an 11-month long wait.

“With the old process, they [the records office] kept jumping between criminal records work and pistol permit work,” Virts told the Times of Wayne County on Tuesday. “It’s not that they did a bad job before, there was just a need for customer service, and we had to speed it up.”

Lieutenant Steve Sklenar said that the Sheriff’s Office will be hiring only one additional officer to help. They have moved some of the personnel around to help with the process, and they have also brought back some retired officers who still want to remain in law enforcement.

According to data provided by Sklenar, they currently have 1,014 permit appointments scheduled, and out of the 1,014, they have processed 279. Between March and April, they were able to process more permits than they scheduled.

“We still have some people in November, but new people we are booking into October now,” Sklenar explained. “Mind you, we’re already four months into [this year], and we’ve been able to shorten it down four months.”

Sklenar added that they have been calling people who were scheduled in November and trying to move them up. With such long waits, Sklenar said they have many people who don’t return for their appointments. In 2015, there were 573 applicants and 481 of them returned for their appointment.

“It’s been a year now, so they forgot about it, or their personal situation has changed,” Sklenar said. “We’re trying to collect email addresses and phone numbers because we are following up like a doctor’s office and reminding people that they have an appointment coming up.”

According to Sklenar, since New York State has some of the most stringent gun laws in the country, the process has become very tedious. From start to finish, he said that each application takes six hours to process, so 600 man hours are required to process 100 permits.

“We’re very careful with doing our record checks,” Sklenar noted. “We could just look at them and say ‘yeah, he’s okay,’ but we are very diligent.

“You have a right to a handgun if you want, and the law permits you to have one, so our job is to streamline the process.”

Senior Records Clerk Nicol Carr said that they have received a lot of good feedback since they created the unit, and they have been able to move up several people who were booked eight months from now.

“We’re doing a good job right now, but I’m nervous of the primary and election coming up,” Carr acknowledged. “We always see increases in an election year.”

Sklenar said that the initial milestone is to bring the waiting period down to five months for new applicants and that they are close to that now. Moving forward, he hopes to bring the wait down to only a few weeks, though he doesn’t know if that is possible.

“Before we created the pistol permit unit, we were processing 45 to 50 permits per month,” he said. “If we stay on track, we’re going to do 96 this month. So we’ve almost doubled it.”

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