Not just a drop in the bucket

LISBON – A sharp drop in most property crimes handled by the sheriff’s office is being attributed in part to a beefed-up county drug task force.

According to the sheriff’s annual report for 2013, the number of breaking-and-enterings dropped last year by 43 percent, from 133 to 76. The number of thefts also dropped by 26 percent, from 617 to 458, and stolen vehicle reports declined by 25 percent, from 100 to 75.

The only property crime category not to see a decrease was in household burglaries, which increased by one to 201 last year. Breaking-and-enterings are of non-residential structures, such as garages, sheds, barns and businesses.

County Sheriff Ray Stone believes the expansion of the drug task force (DTF) to include officers from four additional police departments has begun to pay dividends. The sheriff’s office has two deputies assigned to the DTF.

“Most crimes in the county are related to drugs,” he said. “So if the DTF is taking more offenders off the street that means there are less people around to commit crimes.”

County Prosecutor Robert Herron reported two weeks ago the number of drug-related indictments nearly doubled last year to 121. Of those 121 drug-related indictments, 68 were the direct result of DTF investigations, compared to 31 such cases in 2012.

“I’d like to say it was because we had more deputies on the road, but that’s not the case,” Stone said, although the fact they had 12 percent less warrants to serve in 2013 meant deputies could spend more time patrolling..

That is changing in 2014 because county commissioners have provided the sheriff’s office with enough additional funding for Stone to add two deputies. Commissioners also gave the sheriff’s office money last year for Stone to acquire the department’s first-ever drug detection dog.

“We’re heading in the right direction and we plan on keep going that way, what with the two extra deputies and Jesy (the canine unit),” he said. “We’re planning on taking a bite out of crime.”

Speaking of the canine unit, Jesy was deployed 194 times in the several months she was on the job last year.

Besides taking calls, fighting crime and serving court papers, the sheriff’s office was again busy issuing concealed-weapon permits. In 2013, the office issued 1,353 new permits, an increase of 22 percent. Stone said this may have been in response to the school shooting in Newton, Conn., which was followed by cries for more gun control.

“Everytime there’s a shooting, it goes up,” he said.

Approximately 487 conceal-carry permits were renewed last year, a whopping 243 percent increase over 2012. The permits are for four years, and officials speculated the large number of renewals may include the large groups that took advantage of the law after it first took effect in 2004.

Following are some of the other categories included in the 2013 sheriff’s office report, with the previous year’s figures in parentheses:

Trespassing complaints, 125 (129)

– Vandalism, 342 (335)

– Warrants served, 1,003 (1,186)

– Arrests, 1,183 (1,284)

– Assaults, 125 (162)

– Complaints, 4,194 (5,066)

– Domestic disputes, 388 (372)

– Cruiser mileage, 321,990 (296,089)

– Murders, 3 (2)

– Rapes, 6 (7)

– Other sex offenses, 45 (30)

– Suicides, 23 (22)