What’s the drug of choice in Sherburne County? It’s alcohol

by Joni Astrup

Associate editor

Alcohol: It’s the “drug of choice” that continues to be abused in Sherburne County.

That’s according to Sherburne County Attorney Kathy Heaney.

In a presentation to the Elk River City Council on Feb. 6, Heaney said law enforcement entities throughout the county continue to work together to target that issue, and she appreciates their work.

Take DUIs, for instance. There were 136 DUI cases in Elk River in 2011, down from 147 a year earlier.

Scott Baumgartner, Elk River’s city prosecutor, said one thing they’re finding is the alcohol concentrations seem to be going up. They average about .15 to .16. “We’re seeing a lot of female drivers with .20 and better,” he said.

The legal limit for driving is .08 in Minnesota. That means if a driver has an alcohol concentration of .08 or higher it is illegal to drive, operate or be in physical control of a motor vehicle. For commercial vehicle operators the limit is .04, according to Elk River Police Chief Brad Rolfe.

Meanwhile, Heaney and Baumgartner also had these updates:

•Sherburne County has seen high numbers of tax appeals and bankruptcy cases, a trend Heaney attributes to the economy.

•Sherburne County recently started a domestic abuse lethality assessment. As part of the program, when a police officer responds to a domestic abuse situation the victim is immediately placed on a phone call with an advocate. The advocate also gets contact information and provides a safety plan for the next 24 to 72 hours. “This will be a huge leap forward for the safety of the people who are victims of domestic violence,” Heaney said. She credited Baumgartner with bringing the idea forward. The program came out of Anoka County. Baumgartner said it gives victims of domestic abuse an alternative. There were 54 domestic assault cases in Elk River in 2010 and 55 in 2011.

•Sherburne County Chief Deputy County Attorney Sam Wertheimer is back from a one-year deployment in Fort Riley, Kansas.