Allegany County’s probation director will leave his post at the end of next week after more than 40 years of service in the department.
Robert Starks was recognized by the Allegany County, NY, Board of Legislators today upon his retirement next Friday.
Starks began his service in August 1982 as a probation officer trainee and worked his way up to become department director in March 2009.
He tells Allegany Hope Community News that he has looked on his job over the years “as being a service to the residents of Allegany County.”
After undertaking some duties at home over the next several months, he said he expects to see “where God can lead me to help other people.”
Starks said that some situations have changed over his tenure, but others have remained somewhat the same.
Of significant help has been advances in technology, he said, with everything which now is entered into computers having to be written out by hand when he first started in the field.
He also said that the local share of the department’s budget also has increased over the years, noting that state aid provided 50 percent of the costs originally.
Reimbursements, however, have remained at the same levels, resulting in county taxpayers now paying about 85 percent of the costs.
Alcohol and drug-related charges currently are associated with some 80 percent of cases in the probation department, similar to the same levels as when he started as a probation officer.
The type of drugs have changed over the years, from marijuana to cocaine, to heroin and now methamphetamines, but the percentages of the substances, with alcohol being the highest, having remained constant, according to Starks.
Of the remaining 20 percent of cases, the director said, sex offenders also have been a constantly high percentage, with 30 out of some 200 current probationers, or approximately 15 percent, falling into that category.
Starks said that working with youth is the most difficult because even if a young person is trying to succeed, there often are many negative factors around him or her which are difficult to overcome.
At the same time, he said, it is rewarding to be involved in group work in which one can see a probationer grow and change as members of the group hold each other accountable.
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