Sheriff’s Message, Week of July 2nd
A question routinely asked is “How many people in jail have mental health issues?” To us, the answer is quite simple, “All of them.” The drugged or drunk driver has substance abuse issues; the domestic batter has anger management; and the thief has uncontrollable impulses. Nationally, there has been a push to divert accountability for people with behavioral health issues. When we pick “winners and losers” in determining who qualifies for diversion, equality becomes blurred.
Last month the National Sheriff’s Association conference was held in Reno. Quite a few of the 3,080 nation’s sheriff’s offices were in attendance. At the request of the National Association of Counties, I was honored to speak on the “Sheriff’s Role in Dealing with the Behavioral Health Crisis” because of the forward progress we have made in this area. Behavioral health training, awareness, and programs are supportive of our Community Oriented Policing and our Restorative Justice policies.
Sheriffs who focus efforts and place resources in this area are lowering crime rates; thus improving everyone’s quality of life and enhancing economic development. Next week, I plan on highlighting the recent State of Nevada crime report, and there is some really exciting news for Lyon County. Nonetheless, our behavioral health programs are working. Our suicide rate is lowering, our citizens are more proactive through awareness, our repeat offender arrests are down, and our crime rate is the lowest in decades. We still have work to do, especially as it relates to heroin, prescription opiates, and methamphetamine; but as they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Only in Nevada can we be dealing with fire and floods at the same time. It will be interesting to see what we run out of first: water or things to burn. Many of you are angered at those irresponsible individuals who continue to ignite fireworks. We are too; however, it not easy to prosecute. Only when a deputy has seen them lighting the firework, or a citizen who has seen them lighting the firework and are willing to sign a complaint form, can legal action be taken.
We can’t take any legal action just because someone saw illegal fireworks in the air or heard them in their neighborhood. It must be stated that we do not have enough resources to fully investigate every misdemeanor firework complaint. There are those who may not agree with that statement, claiming our job is to investigate EVERY crime. However, speeding one mile above the posted speed limit is also a misdemeanor crime and a danger to public safety; along with passing in a no passing zone, no brake lights, not using a turn signal, jaywalking, being on private property without permission, harassing another person, etc. There are volumes and volumes of misdemeanor crimes.
Sadly, we have become a society that wants to prosecute our way out of every offense. There are not enough defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges, associated staffs, and deputies to investigate and cite/prosecute every misdemeanor offense. Nor is the public willing to increase their taxes to pay for such a huge government increase. We do what we can with the resources we have, but the answer lies in education to change misdemeanor level outcomes.
Nonetheless, we have assigned a SIU detective to investigate the felony arson case that caused a fire and stopped the Fernley 4th of July celebration. All reported felony level crimes are fully investigated by the LCSO. That is a statutorily mandated Sheriff function.
Since we are a “welfare” county and rely on Clark and Washoe Counties to provide the majority of Lyon County’s C-Tax monies, it will be interesting to see how much our annual C-Tax will increase because of marijuana sales in those two counties. Yes, we will get some eventual benefit from their sales. However, as with all foreign drugs (alcohol included as a drug) entering the body, it causes behavioral health issues. Only time will tell if the cost outweighs the benefit. And finally, I spent some time this week in a local “Head Shop” that sells paraphernalia for smoking marijuana. It was quite funny watching the nervousness of two 21 year old individuals buying a pot pipe as the business owner and I were talking. Especially when I told the owner to call the pipe what it is, used to smoke marijuana and not for a “herb.” There are still a lot of unanswered questions, but the business owner wants to do things right, which I respect.
As always, keep the faith.