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Sheriff's volume of calls up; tight economy blamed

May 1, 2012 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

Fremont County Sheriff Skip Hornecker said a review of his agency's 2011 year-end report indicates an economic impact on the proactive versus the reactive aspects of the sheriff's office.

Although the overcall volume of calls for service increased for the third consecutive year, Hornecker said traffic stops, citations and warnings generated through patrol efforts have dropped.

"The Fremont County Sheriff's Office continues to operate with very conservative staff numbers," Hornecker said in his report. "Consequently, when the calls for service increase, it pulls the enforcement personnel to those responsibilities and impacts the proactive responsibilities."

Hornecker said the proactive efforts include patrolling in rural areas, traffic stops, citations and responsibilities in dealing with drunken drivers.

"DUI enforcement and speed enforcement in critical areas is conducted with grant funding and overtime projects outside the normal duty time, so the deputies can concentrate on the proactive enforcement and are not assigned calls for service," he said.

Budget squeeze

Hornecker said maintaining a balance of proactive and reactive responses to public safety continues to be difficult for his agency.

"Attempting to live within a projected 5 percent decrease in (the) sheriff's office budgets within the 2011-12 fiscal year may require positions to again be reduced, which will obviously add to the concern of providing an adequate public safety service," he said.

Year-end figures

According to the report, deputies responded to 8,955 calls for service last year, which is up 7.4 percent from 2010.

The Riverton division handled the most calls in 2011 with 4,599, which is a 6.2 percent increase from the previous year. The division averaged nine daytime calls for service and five nighttime calls for service.

Deputies from the Lander unit responded to 2,988 calls in 2011. The figure compares to 2,718 calls two years ago, which is a 9 percent increase. The average daytime volume was six calls, and the nighttime average was two.

According to the report, the Dubois division handled 1,062 calls last year, which is up by 7.1 percent (987) from the previous year.

Hornecker said the Dubois patrol unit has been able to remain the most proactive unit in the sheriff's office patrol areas.

"It is uncertain whether the ability to provide a more proactive enforcement component is the result of less calls for service on average for that area or if the proactive enforcement component has created less calls for service," he said.

Last year, Dubois averaged two daytime calls for service and one nighttime service call.

Most calls for service

VIN inspections continued to be the largest service-call category last year, with a reported 2,305 calls. This figure is up from 1,620 two years ago.

Animal-related calls ranked second on the list. Hornecker said this includes animal abuse, bites, carcasses, injuries, animal problems, cattle/horses/sheep on the road, dogs at large, found/lost dogs and vicious animals.

Deputies handled 1,077 calls concerning animals last year, which is up from 937 in 2010.

Other service-call categories with large incident numbers last year include: traffic (678), suspicious person/vehicle (482), agency assist (316), fight (287), citizen assist (224), burglary/theft (221), REDDI (Report Every Drunk Driver Immediately) (1,218) and warrant arrest (210).

Hornecker said the traffic category includes car crashes, abandoned vehicles, hit and runs, non-reported crashes, parking problems, traffic hazards and traffic offenses.

Deputies made 3,294 traffic stops last year. This is down from 4,515 the previous year. The number of warnings/contacts was dropped from 1,649 in 2010 to 1,581 last year as was the number of traffic citations from 1,968 to 1,713.

According to the report, most of the citations issued last year, 319, involved drivers speeding in a 30 mph zone, which is close to the 341 violations the previous year.

Deputies issued 265 tickets to motorists speeding in a 65 mph zone in 2010, which is down from 420 two years ago.

Last year, there were 111 citations written involving driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. This is up from 99 the previous year.

The report noted there were 110 new concealed weapon permits and 121 concealed weapon permits issued last year. These numbers are down from 335 and 180 respectively.

There were 52 search-and-rescue missions launched last year, totaling $34,500.

Both figures are down from 2010, which saw 56 missions to the tune of $107,000.

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