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Sheriff’s Corner: 2021 was a busy year in Cass County

An increase in calls for service may be a reflection of 2021 starting to trend “normally” again. 

Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch
Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch

January brings our annual summary of the previous year as we work to complete our year end statistics and annual report that will be presented to the Cass County Board of Commissioners and published on our website.

Again in 2021, we continued to learn and understand new terminology and how to police while practicing social distancing and mask wearing while keeping the populations that we serve and ourselves safe. In most of 2020, we responded in “emergency mode” and learned new ways of communicating and handling non-emergency situations and requests. 2021 proved to be similar with some easing of restrictions, but continued safety practices of how we handle law enforcement.

In 2021, we answered and processed 20,663 initial complainant reports, which was an increase of 1,171 incidents over 2020. This may be a reflection of 2021 starting to trend “normally” again. This is our main method to document and monitor activity. There are a variety of calls for service that our dispatch center receives that require some sort of action, whether it be from a sheriff’s deputy, local police department, ambulance or fire department. These also include self-initiated responses from officers and reports made to track activity and investigations.

Also trending higher and more normally, our 911 Dispatch Center processed 50,585 911 calls from cellular phones in 2021 and 2,131 calls from hard wired landlines. These numbers do not include calls on our non-emergency lines. Overall, we receive 95% of our 911 calls from cellular phones. On average, Saturday was our busiest day for 911 calls and Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday trended almost flat for our least calls received daily. Our peak calling time was from 2-7 p.m., peaking from 6-7 p.m. daily. Our least call volume times were from 2-6 a.m. daily.

The calendar year 2021 brought the majority of the Line 3 Replacement construction project to the state of Minnesota and Cass County. The new Line 3 was constructed on approximately a 50-mile new corridor within the central area of the county. Anticipated active criminal opposition to this project was high and the sheriff’s office was able to quickly respond to a total of 245 incidents project related, eight of which were active civil disobedience where crimes were being committed and safety measures compromised. Working through the coldest February on NOAA record and hottest summer on record, arrests were made, scenes were cleared and properties and roadways were made safe for our communities and citizens and project workers.

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Our Detention Center continued to see a lower total bookings and daily booking average during 2021 due to restrictions placed on who the Detention Center was able to take, state court operating modifications and warrant processes. Inmates utilized new technology to attend court dates via ITV and Zoom platforms. Our Sentencing to Service program had to be suspended due to a lack of qualifying inmates in custody and distancing mandates, but recently started receiving inmates in late 2021 and are continuing to work to establish a Sentencing to Service crew in 2022. Our crew leader was still able to complete most of the work that the crew does throughout the year on county, city, state and federal properties.

Anyone who resides, travels or visits in Cass County knows that our population, especially seasonally, is increasing significantly. The pandemic continues to bring more people and visitors to our area for longer and extended periods of time to not only recreate, but live full time. Our Patrol and Recreation Division noted a significant increase in recreation traffic, both on land and water in 2021. We are told that sales of ATVs/OHVs and boats continued to be at industry highs, and we observed this in nearly every area of Cass County. Our lakes and trails definitely saw an increase of traffic and activity during the entire year. With more recreation and opportunities for people to spend more time in our area, complaints and incidents that we respond to are also increased.

Most of our volunteer programs, outreach and partnerships were cancelled in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with the intent to help keep our partners safe. Some services were still able to continue through these programs in 2021, in limited capacities. Our boat and water volunteer safety groups participated in lake monitoring and patrols and some groups were able to complete training to keep their skills fresh for when we can continue these programs in their full capacity. We are looking forward to hopefully getting these programs and initiatives started again sometime in 2022.

Narcotics investigation and enforcement was very active in 2021. Investigators and deputies completed dozens of search warrant applications and executions resulting in several pounds of a variety of illegal drugs and substances seized, along with cash and firearms. Our Annual Report will have a full summary of these arrests and seizures.

While the ongoing pandemic continues to force us to adapt the way we do business, we are fully committed to keeping our communities safe and are actively working at that every day. We are always thankful for our community support and working relationships and they are especially appreciated during times like these. We are proud to have built good relationships with those we serve and are thankful for the cooperation that we have with you. If we can be of assistance to you, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please continue to stay safe in the New Year!

If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, please feel free to contact me anytime using one of the following methods: By email at tom.burch@co.cass.mn.us ; by phone at 218-547-1424 or 800-450-2677; or by mail or in person at the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, 303 Minnesota Ave. W, P.O. Box 1119, Walker, MN, 56484.

Related Topics: CASS COUNTY
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