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Cass deputies cut response time

WALKER — Sheriff Tom Burch noted in his annual report to the county board that deputies cut average response time to calls from 15 minutes to 9.9 in 2013, despite a 5.5 percent rise in the number of calls for service.

Deputies spent an average of 40 minutes on the scene. They responded to 19,830 incident reports in 2013.

Cass County Sheriff’s Department covers a 2,424.21 square mile area. Of that 84 percent is land, and 16 percent is water. It includes 50 organized townships, 14 unorganized townships and 15 incorporated cities. Five cities also have their own police departments.

In 2013, the department spent $3,864,985 on patrol and investigation, $2,303,950 on jail and sentence to serve, $452,261 on recreation education and enforcement, $367,176 on emergency response and medical examiner services and $328,683 on administration and records.

The dispatch center provides communications for the sheriff, all five police departments, 10 fire departments, ambulance services and first response services in the county.

There are a chief dispatcher, eight full-time dispatchers and two part-time dispatchers.

The deputy staff includes one lieutenant, three sergeants, four investigators, 21 patrol deputies, three recreational deputies and one civil processing deputy. One deputy has a K-9 partner, a 2-year-old German Shepherd named Yankee.

One lieutenant oversees the jail in Walker. Staff includes a program coordinator, 12 corrections officers, two transport officers, one Sentence to Serve crew leader and two bailiffs who provide security for the courts and courthouse.

Staff also includes an emergency management director and four records personnel.

The department issued 475 permits to purchase a gun in 2013, down 6.3 percent from 2012, but issued more than double the number of permits to carry a gun — up from 243 in 2012 to 576 in 2013.

Officers cleared 236 of the 300 felony warrants issued in 2013, cancelled 17 and had 47 active felony warrants.

Of 206 gross misdemeanor warrants issued, 145 were cleared, 40 remained active and 21 were canceled.

Of 350 misdemeanor warrants issued, 236 were cleared, 68 remained open and 46 were canceled.

Sheriff’s deputies processed 20 assault cases, 238 burglaries, five criminal vehicular operation and 50 criminal sexual conduct cases in 2013. There were no homicides or kidnapping cases.

This is an improvement from three homicides and one kidnapping in 2012.

Of the motor vehicle traffic crashes, 264 were property damage, 73 involved injuries. Of the crashes of a vehicle with a deer, 182 involved no injuries, and three did have injuries to the vehicle occupants.

There were four vehicle fatalities in 2013.

Deputies arrested 92 impaired drivers in 2013, with an average blood alcohol level of .16 percent or two times the legal limit.

In addition to responding to citizen calls, the sheriff’s department makes an effort to provide community services. They attend town board and city council meetings, speak to groups, visit schools and participate in community events.

Cass County’s emergency response team is a SWAT-type team consisting of 10 members who receive specialized training. In 2013, they responded to such situations as domestic assault/terroristic threats situations, drug and weapons cases, marijuana growing operations, guns/stolen property cases and weapons/assault cases.

Their special training includes rifle and handgun qualifying in warm or cold weather or darkness situations and deadly force situations. They train for live building searches, including at schools.

Deputies checked did 587 compliance checks on registered predatory offenders in 2013.

The department’s Take It To The Box program to collect expired and unused medications from the public has been popular with residents. A total of 492.48 pounds of medications were collected in 2013.

Anyone can bring their old medications to permanent boxes at the sheriff’s office in Walker, Pine River Police Department or Lake Shore Police Department during normal business hours or to pre-announced one-day collections.

The sheriff contracts police services to the cities of Cass Lake and Backus and, on July fourth holiday, with East Gull Lake.

In addition to following up on regular law enforcement cases, the sheriff’s investigators also investigate social services reports of physical and sexual abuse or neglect.

They cleared four large, multi-county burglary rings cases in 2013. They continually investigate drug sales and distributions throughout the county.

Investigators regularly work on missing persons cases, with the most prominent current case being the unsolved 2009 disappearance of Peter Achermann in the southern part of the county.

Burch said scams and frauds have been an increasing problem. He encouraged people to report any scams they experience, so his staff can follow up and also so he can warn the public of the latest thing to avoid to prevent becoming a victim.

Some people have lost over $100,000 through such scams, he said, noting recovery is made more difficult, because many scammers are located outside the United States.

The sheriff reports scams he learns about in his regular newspaper columns in news releases and in NIXLE alerts.

He encouraged the public to sign up for NIXLE alerts through the sheriff’s website at or through the NIXLE website.

These alerts include emergency notices such as warnings about dangerous storms, notice of predatory offenders moving to your community, notice of scams that are occurring in your area.

He emphasizes the program is designed to provide only important information. Alerts are limited, he said, to avoiding flooding people’s inboxes. Deputies served 1,130 civil papers in 2013, some to multiple people.

The sheriff’s recreational division has boats permanently on Leech, Gull, Woman, Pleasant and Outing area lakes. Deputies use several other boats to move among the counties other lakes to patrol.

Deputies also teach boat and water safety schools throughout the county.

They do all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and off highway vehicle (OHV) patrols.

In 2013, they handled 73 complaints, issued 36 citations, 66 warnings, made two alcohol related arrests and issued 10 illegal operation citations.

They investigated 17 ATV and OHV crashes. An $8,243.80 grant help pay to patrol these vehicles in 2013.

They offered 204.5 hours of safety education for snowmobilers, responded to 38 snowmobiling complaints, made two snowmobiler arrests, issued 27 warnings, made one alcohol-related arrest and investigated 17 snowmobile crashes.

There were no ATV, OHV or snowmobile fatalities in 2013.

Several Cass deputies participate in the Lakes Area Dive Team, which provides water search and rescue services in Cass, Beltrami and Hubbard counties and trains other emergency responders in offering those services.

The sheriff booked an average of 5.42 new inmates a day into the jail, with an average of 20.64 a day housed at Cass’ jail in Walker, 45.3 average a day house at the Crow Wing jail in Brainerd and by year end another seven to 14 per day at Hubbard County Jail.

The sheriff’s emergency management division is the county’s connection to FEMA. The director, with other county staff, has prepared a plan to prepare county employees to respond should a major disaster strike the county.

He also has served as the county’s link for obtaining assistance when there have been major storms or floods in parts of the county. He trains students and adults. He coordinated and oversaw the county’s installation of the new emergency radio communication system in 2013.

Pastors in local churches volunteer their time to offer chaplaincy services when the sheriff needs them. They were called out for 50.5 hours to provide services and ride with deputies on patrol in 2013.

The TRIAD program is a cooperative effort between older residents and the sheriff’s office. Residents volunteered 771 hours for this program in 2013. They provide medical information cards, distribute information about scams, and offer credit card protectors, cell phone holders, sand shakers and winter survival kits.