ROGERSVILLE — The homeowners’ associations in two Hawkins County neighborhoods joined forces recently to purchase 25 fingerprint kits, which were donated to the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office during a ceremony Friday.

The kits are to be placed in every patrol car.

Currently, only the HCSO Detectives Division is equipped with kits for taking fingerprints that might have been left by suspects.

Lt. Greg Larkin, who is in charge of the Patrol Division, noted that fingerprinting isn’t taught at the Police Academy, and deputies will receive training before their new fingerprint kits are issued.

The contributions Friday were the result of a rash of thefts from boats that took place in September at Legacy Bay.

The Legacy Bay and Chelaque Estates neighborhoods are located on Cherokee Lake in far western Hawkins County, and many of the residents are retirees from out of state.

Chris Klepeis, who is president of the Legacy Bay homeowners’ association, told the Times News Friday she and many of her neighbors were surprised that Hawkins County patrol deputies aren’t equipped with fingerprint kits.

Kleipis noted that in two of the September thefts, trolling motors had been removed from boats with tools.

“When the police came we asked them, ‘What about taking some fingerprints?’ ” Kleipis said. “‘Maybe this perp had been arrested on other crimes and you’ve got him on file.’ They said, ‘We don’t have a fingerprint kit.’ What? We couldn’t believe it. So that’s what started it.”

Klepeis joined forces with Chelaque Estates homeowners’ association president Jody Howells to pool resources from both organizations to purchase 25 kits for the HCSO. That’s enough for one kit in every patrol car.

Each neighborhood has a retired police officer living there who was called upon to contribute expertise when choosing which kits to purchase.

Ken Quaco is a retired San Diego officer who lives in Legacy Bay, and Jerry Keys is a retired officer from northern Virginia who resides in Chelaque Estates, where he is a member of a neighborhood watch committee.

Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said this contribution is a tremendous asset to the Patrol Division.

“Patrol units do not have fingerprint kits in them, so the first officer on the scene is unable to take fingerprints if needed,” Lawson said. “The detectives are usually the ones who take them. With their help and their donation, each patrol car will have a fingerprint kit in it. If an officer sees the need or finds evidence that they may need to take before a detective gets there, then they can do so.”

Lawson added, “We didn’t have the money in the budget to buy these, but thanks to these folks, both communities, we have them now.”

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