• Roger Sims, Journal Staff

Sheriff's report: Arrests, farming out prisoners were down in 2021

Updated: Feb 2

MOUND CITY – Fewer people booked into jail, an increase in the number of cases opened, gearing up to move operations and the jail into the new justice center, and being nearly a quarter million dollars under budget in 2021.

Linn County Sheriff Kevin Friend issued a yearly report for 2021 earlier this month. And while the numbers gave some vital statistics on the sheriff’s office, Friend gave added perspective to those numbers.

Dealing with crime is, of course, a large part of any law enforcement operation, and so is keeping those who are charged with committing crimes behind bars. The number of people booked into jail last year was 372, with 289 of those being males and 83 females.

The sheriff said that number was down from a normal year, which he would expect to see as many as 450 bookings. He attributed that decrease in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because of that, his office was able to manage its inmate population so that there were fewer inmates farmed out to other jails. Sending an overflow of prisoners to nearby counties has historically been a large part of the sheriff’s annual budget.

However, the result of being able to keep most of the prisoners in the county, Friend said his department was able to return $244,000, or 9 percent, of his annual budget back into county coffers at the end of the year.

The jail staff was busy, though. More than 19,700 meals, or an average of 54 meals a day, were served to prisoners. And the total number of times the staff checked on prisoners was nearly 24,300 times, or an average of 258 times a day.

Friend said the jail staff has up until now been responsible for doing vehicle identification number (VIN) inspections to insure that VIN numbers of the vehicle match those on the title. The cost of that service is $20 per inspection, and after expenses those inspections brought about $17,000 into the sheriff’s budget.

Friend said that, although the VIN inspections are essentially a job for the Kansas Highway Patrol, he wants to provide that service to Linn County residents. He also said that the VIN inspection process will change once his department moves into the new justice center.

People who want to have a VIN inspection done will check into the sheriff’s office on the east side of the building, but the jail staff will be on the west side. He expects to press his bailiff staff, which will have offices near the sheriff’s office, into performing those inspections.

The sheriff’s office will hire three new people for its communication division this year, enough to give the department two dispatchers for every shift. That will be particularly important during times of a fire or other emergencies when one dispatcher is needed to coordinate fire, law enforcement, ambulance and other agencies, he said.

The total number of calls to the county’s 911 system in 2021 was 7,179, or an average of nearly 20 calls a day. Total phone calls, including 911 and other phone calls and dispatches during 2021, were more than 162,400, or an average of 455 every 24 hours.

“This is really a big deal,” Friend said. “People don’t have the realization how many calls are handled.”

In addition to dispatching for county law enforcement, ambulance and fire departments, the department also providing dispatching service for every city in the county as well with no charge to those cities, he said. Nearly 70 percent of the total dispatches are for municipalities and about 30 percent for the county.

Because of that, the sheriff’s office keeps tabs on the number of traffic stops made in the county. The total number of stops during the year for both deputies and city police was 4,356, or an average of about 12 a day. Sheriff’s deputies either made or assisted police in 1,854 of those stops.

The Linn Valley Police Department made 12,525 stops, Pleasanton police had 708 stops, La Cygne police had 304 stops, Mound City had 29 stops and Parker had three stops.

Deputies also worked 286 vehicle accidents over the course of the year and responded nearly 300 times to reports of cattle being loose.

In addition to enforcing traffic laws and working accidents, the patrol division also serves papers for civil cases as well. Last year the department served 1,163 civil papers, but not every attempt at serving papers was successful. The department logged 1,915 attempts to serve papers.

The office’s detective division opened 1,301 new cases during 2021. That number was about 70 more new cases than last year, Friend said. Those cases included criminal investigations and child-in-need-of-care cases. That division resolved and closed 939 cases.

Friend said that about 400 cases remained open, whether the cases were still under investigation or the office was waiting for cases to work their way through the courts. He also said that several cases awaiting trial had left inmates in the county jail for an inordinate amount of time.

The sheriff’s office began reporting the activity of bailiff and school resource officers (SROs) midway through the year following concerns that too much was being spent on those officers. Since that time, bailiffs have checked a daily average of 22 people entering the court.

There are six SROs in the county, one for each school building. Because Pleasanton USD 344 has elementary, junior high and senior high in one building, the district has one SRO.

Jayhawk USD 346 has an elementary school and a junior/senior high school, so there are two officers assigned to the district. Prairie View USD 362 has two elementary schools and a combined middle school and high school, so it has three officers.

Since his department began counting in the fall of 2021, those officers combined have an average of 22 calls per day. However, the role of officers who are stationed only in elementary schools are different than those in the middle grades and high schools.

Friend said that SROs in the upper grades balance out their duties of law enforcement with counseling students. He likened it to community policing where officers befriend and gain the trust of the student and guide them when it looks like they might go astray.

For officers in the elementary schools, the officers connect with the students, but they also work with the Kansas Division of Family Services and other agencies. Often schools turn to them when a child-in-need-of-care case is opened. They to help get the child and his or her family the help they need to thrive.

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