Sheriff gives update on operations during open house
June 18, 2013 — Community members had the opportunity to better understand the operations of the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office during an open house on Wednesday, May 29.
People toured the sheriff’s office, the county jail, dispatch and learned more about boat patrol and coroner duties. Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon provided an update on operations and answered questions presented by the public.
He said, “The way I look at it, the sheriff’s office belongs to everyone who lives in the county. I’m just the one who got chosen to manage it right now, and I figure it’s right to open it up and let the people see what we’re doing and give us a chance to receive input from the community, and let them know about some of the projects we’re working on.”
Some of the updates provided included personnel.
Growdon said two deputies are assigned to each community, Bieber, south county and Westwood, one provides service to the Spalding and Eagle Lake area with the remainder of the deputies working out of headquarters.
“We’ve really worked hard on recruiting. We had a number of vacancies for a lot of years and had a number of frozen positions. The board of supervisors funded some of those positions a couple years ago … we have the best staff we’ve had in quite a while now,” he said.
“We’ve worked really hard on hiring good quality people who want to be here,” he said. “If you’re hiring people who are just here to do the job, they’re not going to do the job the way we want it done. They’re not going to get involved in the community, they don’t really care about the community, and that’s not who we hire. We are very careful. We’ve passed over a number of applicants because they just don’t fit what we want here,” Growdon said.
In the last year, there have been 199 felony arrests, 526 misdemeanor arrests and 5,312 service calls.
There were also 3,848 officer-initiated events, which Growdon explained are deputies proactively looking for people who are up to no good.
“That’s a lot of activity, especially when you’re talking about four to five on per shift,” he said.
One person in attendance at the meeting asked about gang activity and drug use in the community.
According to Growdon, there has been some level of gang activity in the area for quite a while but he doesn’t necessarily see it expanding.
“We do have more of it in the jail, we’re seeing more sophistication and more gang-type activity and inmates trying to control it. A lot of that has to do with public safety realignment and some just because of the gang activity in the county,” he said.
The public safety realignment, Assembly Bill 109 allows low-level, non-violent offenders to be sentenced to jail rather than state prison.
Regarding drug activity, Growdon said it is always there, but it has changed somewhat
He said the big shift the sheriff’s office has seen is from methamphetamine to prescription drug abuse such as oxycodone and hyrdocodone.
“We see it on the enforcement side and we see it on the coroner side,” Growdon said and estimated that in the last several years, there has been an average of 10 to 12 accidental deaths due to drug overdoses.
There are more that occur that the sheriff’s office is unaware of because Growdon explained if a person overdoses he or she might be flown to Reno and die there.
“If that happens we don’t necessarily become aware of it,” he said.
The most common cause of prescription drug deaths is methadone, according to Growdon.
Resident Jean Hodge asked how people are getting the prescription drugs, “Are those local prescriptions, or are they trucked in or off the street?
Growdon said it is both, but a lot of them are local prescriptions. He also said they see pharm parties where kids take prescription medications from home and dump them in a bowl and the youth randomly select pills, take them and drink alcohol.
Undersheriff John Mineau said the sheriff’s office has partnered with the Drug Enforcement Administration in holding prescription drug take-back events where people can bring leftover or expired prescription medications in their cabinets for proper disposal.
Mineau said, “We encourage people, keep your prescriptions locked up, keep them away, keep them out of where kids can’t get them because we have seen so many of those kinds of parties.”
Another man in attendance asked with the two state prisons and the federal prison if those paroled are released in Lassen County or back to the county they came from. He also asked how much more dangerous the county is to live in as the years go by.
Growdon said, “When they’re paroled, they’re paroled to the county of commitment.”
However, he said there are certain ways a parolee can stay in the area and they can apply for a transfer of parole.
In response to the safety of the area, Growdon said the crime rate is dropping both county and statewide.
He said it is a hard question, and the hard part is the types of calls are different and they are seeing more desperate people.
Growdon said, “You see it, too, in the news. There’s a lot more desperate people who are willing to do desperate acts.”
Mineau also mentioned the current law enforcement group, which he said is stronger than it has ever been.
“We’ve got a better quality cop out there than I think we’ve ever had. They’re doing a harder job than they’ve ever had to do because it’s more complicated and there are more desperate people,” he said.
Mineau said the sheriff has clearly kept his end of the bargain by putting the best trained, highest-character people he can find to serve the public.
“The crime stats, they’re going to trend, they’re going to move, they’re always in some kind of motion, they’re going up, they’re going down. There will always be debates, is realignment good, is it bad, is it causing crime to spike? So for us, we’re going to deal with every call that comes in the best way we can. But put the best cops out there that we can to take care of them … ”
Other issues discussed during the meeting were the effects of realignment per Assembly Bill 109, registered sex offender checks and a new mass notification system launched by the sheriff’s office.
Information regarding local sex offenders can be found at sheriffalerts.com/cap_main.php?office=55092.
According to Growdon, the information is more comprehensive than the Megan’s Law.
The sheriff’s office has also launched its CodeRed® which allows the public to register their phone numbers and they will receive emergency and other public safety messages.
To sign up, people can click on the CodeRed® link at co.lassen.ca.us/govt/dept/sheriff.
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