by Paul Rignell
Zimmerman contracts with the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office for traffic patrol and other law enforcement services, and council members on Feb. 27 welcomed Sheriff Joel Brott for a review of last year’s policing data.
Brott reported that Sherburne County deputies were involved in 4,041 total calls or stops in Zimmerman through 2016. The number grew from totals of 3,748 in the previous year and 3,878 three years ago.
“Generally, it’s population-driven,” Brott said. “It’s something for us to watch.”
City officials noted that Zimmerman continues to grow, with a total of 48 home building permits issued in 2016.
The sheriff said that the larger number of calls or deputy reports last year did not mean a significant increase in overall crime activity affecting residents, as the 4,041 calls (for a daily average of 11) included all traffic stops.
Traffic patrol led to 29 arrests of motorists who were suspected of driving while intoxicated.
Brott said that the county’s deputies filed 19 reports involving narcotics from Zimmerman last year. The deputies investigated or responded to 12 different assault calls here in 2016, along with 11 other cases that would be classified as involving criminal sexual conduct.
County responders did see a sharp increase in theft reports from Zimmerman last year. Deputies took 138 such calls in the city, ranging from vehicle and other property thefts to gas station drive-offs. Theft reports totaled closer to 100 in 2015.
The theft totals did not include business or residential burglaries, for which the county received eight calls last year. Brott added there were 49 reported incidents of property damage in 2016.
Regarding personnel, the sheriff noted that the county hired five new deputies last year partly due to some department retirements. He said there are a few more retirements expected to come in 2017.
After Brott finished his annual report for the Zimmerman Council, Sherburne County Attorney Kathleen Heaney took the chair to discuss some court data from last year.
She said her office reviewed 529 total cases in 2016, which was up 10 percent from the previous year.
She said the increase was 29 percent for gross misdemeanor cases. She explained the county’s total of 254 cases with that classification did not include activity from the city of Elk River, which contracts to process its own gross misdemeanor cases.
Heaney said truancy cases were up 26 percent in 2016 and that the county legal staff processed a 25 percent increase in child protection cases. The data would not necessarily show a growing trend in high-risk environments for the county’s youth, Heaney said.
“It’s just a situation where they (staff) are looking more closely at cases that are brought into the intake unit,” she said.
She added that last year’s county total of 30 cases involving termination of parental rights had doubled the number of similar cases from 2015.
Council members asked about financial impact for a person that may be convicted on a DWI charge. Heaney said a driver in that situation could expect to lose anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 due to such factors as lost wages, legal fees and higher insurance rates.
The council also asked Heaney about prescription drug drop-off sites for any residents wanting to rid their homes of unused medications.
“What we’re finding is, prescription drugs have become a gateway” to heroin and other harder substances, the county attorney replied. “If we can get (old prescriptions) out of the cabinet, we actually take away the temptation and that’s a really important thing.”
Heaney noted there are free prescription drop-off sites at the county government center in Elk River and also at city police offices in Big Lake and Becker. She said residents should remove their names and other personal information from pill bottles (liquid medications are not accepted there), while leaving the containers labeled with their drug identification.
The council asked Heaney about the chance of bringing a prescription drug drop-off receptacle to Zimmerman for residents’ convenience. She advised city officials to contact the Sheriff’s Office or the county’s Solid Waste Department.