By Chris Umscheid
JOHNSON COUNTY– Sometimes there are no clear cut answers to explain why things are the way they are.
As an example, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) released its annual report documenting the department’s activities in 2013. While some categories of offenses are down, Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek is at a loss as to why, exactly. On the other hand, in general, calls for service are up, continuing a trend that shows the department is busier with each passing year.
The JCSO has a lot of ground to cover as the primary law enforcement agency for the unincorporated parts of the county as well as providing services on a contracted basis to Hills, Lone Tree, Oxford, Shueyville, Solon, Swisher and Tiffin.
For the 2014-2015 fiscal year, the JCSO will bill Solon $66,456, Swisher $50,700, Oxford $26,364, Shueyville $28,392 and Tiffin $67,938.
The agency’s deputies patrol 36 miles of Interstates 80 and 380, 54 miles of state highways and 909 miles of county roads.
On those roads there has been a steady decrease in offenses according to the report. For example in 2011 the department conducted 210 Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) investigations, but only 152 in 2013. Citations for speeding dropped from 1,409 in 2011 to 1,067 in 2012 and only 748 in 2013. Seatbelt violations dropped from 76 in 2012 to 50 in 2013.
Pulkrabek had a theory for the decrease in numbers.
“I would speculate (deputies) are spending more time handling more calls for service, and I think there have been fewer large, joint-traffic enforcement projects that we have worked on.”
The department responded to 15,756 calls for service in 2011, 18,160 in 2012 and 19,374 last year. As for the decrease in OWI, Pulkrabek said, “I am hopeful that more and more people are finding safer ways to get home if they are out drinking heavily.” Possession of Alcohol Under the Legal Age (PAULA) citations dropped from 95 in 2012 to only 30.
Overall traffic citations, including verbal and written warnings, dropped from 7,104 in 2011 to 4,993 in 2013.
Assault arrests declined from 60 in 2012 to 45, but the number of assaults reported was higher with 48 aggravated assaults (same as for 2012) and 17 simple assaults (down from 33 in 2012).
There were no murder investigations in Johnson County in 2011, 2012 or 2013.
There was a slight increase in burglaries from 67 to 72, while robberies remained at two, as in 2012 and 2011. In 2011 the sheriff’s office recorded 112 burglaries. Thefts decreased by one from 151 to 150, but still surpassed the 2011 total of 135.
“The burglary numbers do not show a major spike, but are still down quite a bit from 2011, so I think that is a positive,” the sheriff said. Drug violations went from 80 in 2011 to 71 in 2012, and were at 54 last year. Pulkrabek could offer no explanation for the decline.
Looking at the jail statistics the average daily population dropped slightly from 145 in 2012 to 132 in 2013. Bookings, total transports, total mileage and the cost of transports all decreased. But, the cost of housing inmates outside of Johnson County increased.
Bookings decreased by 517 from 2012 and transports due to overcrowding in the jail went down 38 percent, according to the report. The Muscatine County Sheriff’s Office made 452 transports for the Johnson County jail due to overcrowding at a savings of $18,475.88,” the document indicates. The report also states costs for housing increased by two percent or $21,517.00.
Part of the lower jail census was due to jail alternative programs, Pulkrabek explained.
“Much of it (the decrease in jail population) has to do with the continued programs that Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness has helped on. The weekly meetings that involve her office, my office, defense (attorneys), a judge, and Department of Correctional Services all getting together to get people out (of jail) has been a huge success.”
The complete annual report is available online at www.johnson-county.com . Click on Departments and select Sheriff from the pull down menu for the homepage of the sheriff’s office. The link to the report is on the left side of the page. Or call 319-356-6020.