Sheriffs Department navigates through pandemic, increasing drug issues in 2020
Tue, 01/12/2021 - 12:05pm caleb
Highlights for department during challenging year included passing of millage, golf outing fundraiser, progress on technology upgrades
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The Crawford County Sheriff’s Department dealt with a variety of challenges in 2020, some related to COVID-19, some not, but the year also offered some positives for the department, including the passage of a millage, progress on technology upgrades, and the completion of a successful annual fundraiser.
In the November 3 general election, Crawford County voters approved a five-year millage to pay for a School Resource Officer in the Crawford AuSable School District and a deputy for the Strike Team Investigative Narcotics Group (STING).
Undersheriff Ryan Swope said he was grateful “to all the Crawford County residents who voted, whether they voted for the millage or against it, grateful they did their civic duty.”
Undersheriff Swope said “drugs are a big problem in Crawford County” and the STING officer gets a “significant amount of work.”
“They’re staying very busy and doing great work. The voters have allowed us to do that,” Undersheriff Swope said.
Undersheriff Swope said the School Resource Officer is busy and “doing a great job” in all three Crawford AuSable School District buildings, dealing mainly with truancy issues right now.
In June, the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department was able to conduct its annual Kirk Wakefield Golf Outing (previously known as the DARE Golf Outing) to raise money for the department’s youth programs such as Junior Deputy and Drug Abuse Resistance Education.
“Monies from that go to the youth services fund,” Undersheriff Swope said.
Undersheriff Swope said the department did things a little differently in 2020 for the golf outing, purchasing gift certificates for prizes instead of soliciting donations in an effort to help local businesses during a tough time because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was successful,” Sheriff Shawn Kraycs said.
Kraycs and Swope said another positive for the year was being able to bring new people into the department, including the first female road officer it’s had in several years. Sheriff Kraycs said the department has had women working in its corrections and dispatch departments, but not a female road officer.
“She was the best candidate for the job,” Sheriff Kraycs said.
Undersheriff Swope said the department is working on a new report writing system that will consolidate information and allow it to be more accessible for the department and other area law enforcement groups. Sheriff Kraycs said the change will also save the department a significant amount of money.
The Sheriff’s Department is also in the process of purchasing new in-car cameras and body cameras for its officers and the new camera system “will download automatically.” Swope said funding for the system is coming from federal grants secured by Kraycs.
Undersheriff Swope said the department was able to install a new exterior camera system last year.
“It’s been a great upgrade for us. We’ve used the new camera system several times for property damage issues in the parking lot. It’s also safer for the inmates and the correctional staff because it documents everything for us,” Undersheriff Swope said.
Sheriff Kraycs said the department’s “neighborhood slow down program” designed to reduce speeding in residential areas was also a positive in 2020.
The pandemic and the changing orders from the governor and later the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services provided some challenges for the department, including adjustments to some of its protocols to keep staff members (and their families) safe from COVID-19 infection.
“Our department has tried quite diligently to keep all our staff healthy. We’ve done a good job at that with everything going on,” Undersheriff Swope said. “We tried our best to keep everyone healthy and we were able to do that.”
Sheriff Kraycs said the department was initially split approximately “50/50” with regard to taking the COVID-19 vaccine, but “more and more are saying they’ll take it.”
Sheriff Kraycs said the department is leaving it to the employees to determine if they want to get the vaccine.
“We’re not making it mandatory. They have to be comfortable what they’re putting in their bodies,” Sheriff Kraycs said.
Sheriff Kraycs said the orders by the governor and the state health department came with some enforceability issues, and the department mostly tried to approach situations with education and warnings instead of issuing citations.
“We tried our best to take every scenario individually and process it,” Undersheriff Swope said.
Swope and Kraycs said instances of drunk driving and domestic violence have increased in the county, and people stopped for drunk driving are showing higher amounts of alcohol in their systems.
“Our drunk driving numbers are up quite high, higher than normal, much higher blood alcohol contests that we’ve had in the past. Those seem to be more common now that COVID has come,” Undersheriff Swope said.
Sheriff Kraycs said domestic violence calls have been more frequent and are coming “any time of the day now.”
Undersheriff Swope said drug use is also a major issue in the county, especially methamphetamine.
“Methamphetamine is through the roof for us,” Undersheriff Swope said. “Every other day we’re arresting someone for possession of methamphetamine.”
Undersheriff Swope said “in the last few years crystal meth has gone through the roof” and he suspects a significant amount of it comes from Mexico.
“It’s everywhere. People you wouldn’t suspect to be using are using it. It’s pretty frightening to see how much there is,” Undersheriff Swope said. “I feel methamphetamine is our biggest issue when it comes to drugs, currently.”
(“Methamphetamine is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Crystal methamphetamine is a form of the drug that looks like glass fragments or shiny, bluish-white rocks,” according to www.drugabuse.gov.)
Swope said meth causes people to stay awake for long periods of time and can cause hallucinations, making it difficult for first responders to deal with users. Also, as more drug producers look to decrease costs by using fentanyl – “a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent,” according to www.drugabuse.gov – in their products, overdoses are increasing.
“The reason they’re overdosing is it’s so much stronger than what their body is accustomed to,” Undersheriff Swope said.
Undersheriff Swope said it’s a difficult problem for law enforcement because when they arrest one dealer another takes his place.
“It’s a forever revolving door,” Undersheriff Swope said.