Law enforcement officials looking at busy 2012

OSCEOLA COUNTY — With 2011 done and gone, officers with the Osceola County Sheriff’s Department are taking a look back at the year past, and carefully considering the year to come.

Each year, numbers are compiled and statistics reviewed.

While the activity accounting has yet to be completed, initial numbers show 2011 was a busy year for OCSD deputies.

In round figures, law enforcement officers with the OCSD responded to approximately 4,000 calls — and that figure only includes “official” calls through Central Dispatch or road patrol incidents.

“This would be an increase of about 25 percent from the year before,” pointed out Undersheriff Justin Halladay.

“Generally speaking, we were pretty much on average for the year — until the Michigan State Police post in Reed City closed its front door to the public. Although the MSP is still serving in this community, we got busier when they changed their operation.”

Halladay noted that walk-in traffic at the OCSD increased a lot as well when the MSP post shut down its front desk reception operation.

“We get a lot more people walking in to take care of business such as registration of sex offenders,” he said.

As for numbers and stats, Halladay reported the county’s Operating While Impaired complaints stayed pretty stable during 2011 — close to an average for any given year.

Drug issues have gotten more pronounced in Osceola County, and that is a concern for all involved.

“At one point, we were dealing with three meth labs in less than three weeks,” the undersheriff pointed out.

“Drug problems are making a real comeback in our county. Arrests in 2011 definitely increased. We don’t have the final stats compiled at this point, but we know enough to say this is a real issue.

“We even had a heroin bust this past year. That drug is making a push into the northern Michigan area, and that should be a worry to anyone living here.

“I don’t know that there is any one factor that would be a cause for an increase in drug traffic in our area, but the whatever the case, we will do everything we can to combat this trend.”

Halladay said OCSD deputies recognized that they were definitely busier in 2011 than in the immediate years before that time.

“Domestic violence complaints have gone up, although the sad truth is they often do increase during the holidays,” he said.

“Still, with the economy being in the shape it is in, there is a lot of stress in homes around our county. People too often respond to that stress poorly and make lousy choices.

“Then we are called in.

“Domestic situations have kept us busy.”

And problems facing deputies don’t involve only drugs and domestics.

Without having exact figures just yet, Halladay reports complaints registered with the OCSD have increased “across the board.”

“We seeing quite an increase in what we often call economic crime, such as someone stealing metals in order to try and sell them at scrap yards,” he said.

“It often happens that we get busier when the economy takes a downturn.”

Having said all that, the undersheriff reports the department managed to function very well within its budget.

“We are in the black,” he said. “We actually finished the year with a bit of a surplus.

“This is simply because we’ve been very careful in years past any looked ahead in our planning.

“We’ve managed to get a lot of benefit from grants, and that saved us a lot of money that we wouldn’t have been able to spend anyway.

“We have really kept our heads above water, and kept our department well equipped by filing for grant funding for many projects.

“I think 2012 will be a good year.

“There will probably continue to be some serious budget issues we’ll be needing to deal with. We also anticipate a busy year ahead in the number of complaints filed and responded to.

“Whatever happens, we are here and we will continue to do the job the people of this county expect from their sheriff’s department.”