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3/14/2014 10:15:00 AM
McNurlin talks about Goodhue County annual crime statistics

by Ken Haggerty

The Goodhue County Sheriff's Office (GCSO) reported 13,439 incidents, calls and reports of activity (ICRs) for 2013, down from 13,991 in 2012, 15,668 in 2011 and 15,547 in 2010.

Sheriff Scott McNurlin said it was a kind of a statistical anomaly with reports in almost all areas. He said a slow year in is good in his business.

Vehicle accidents handled by the GCSO were at 213, down from 264 in 2012, 431 in 2011, and 385 in 2010. Miles traveled are usually down when the economy is down and when fuel prices are high, but McNurlin says he also thinks aggressive law enforcement sponsored safe driving programs are having a positive impact. McNurlin says Goodhue County has and continues to make some good road improvements in recent year, which is also a positive.

The Toward Zero Death program in Goodhue County was awarded a $4,000 state of the art laser/radar for speed enforcement.

Assisting other law authorities were up, from 1,252 in 2012 to 1,287 in 2013. He said many local police forces are stretched too thin and often need back-up or help with investigations.

McNurlin said he would like to add a car and an officer or two to his patrol side. He says they cover 764 square miles with three patrol cars. Responding from northern end to southern end of Goodhue County can easily take 20 minutes at 55 mph. While some areas contract for extra, more dedicated service, some are only seasonal in their contracts and some areas like Frontenac, which is relatively densely populated, have no contract for extra service, but end up requiring it.

Driving complaints at 410 were down 40, Traffic stops at 5,669 were down from 6,116 and totals of 8,157 and 8,063 in the two prior years. McNurlin said they issue about three warnings to one citation.

DWI arrests were at 64, a five year low. Other alcohol calls were at 28, also a five year low.

Drug calls were at 42, down from 58 last year and a five year low. McNurlin said Goodhue County remains a trafficking area situated along Hwy. 52 and US Hwy. 61 and between larger metro areas. He said the SE Minnesota drug task force is seeing more heroin activity in Winona, LaCrosse and Rochester that the GCSO is on the lookout for. He said oxycontin abuse has led to some of the heroin abuse.

Boating/ATV calls are on the rise; up to 377 from 297 last year and the highest in five years. McNurlin said seasonal officers patrol Byllesby and other waterways to try and keep things under control. McNurlin said motorcycles, ATVs, boats and snowmobiles seem to get faster and faster. He enjoys riding, but says caution and safety need to be in play. Motorcycle accidents accounted for some of the fatal and severe accidents near Cannon Falls. Goodhue County is a big draw for motorcycle riders who enjoy isolated, scenic, curvy roads.

Burglary calls for the GCSO were at 47, lowest since 43 in 2009. McNurlin said drug users looking for quick money from ripping off metal from isolated irrigators, gravel pits and ski hills are a problem in Goodhue County. He hopes stricter scrap metal payment plans help curtail this.

The GCSO had 203 theft reports in 2013, down from 233 in 2012, but up from 172 in 2011. Auto thefts were steady at 20. Civil complaints were down from 249 to 243 in 2013. Animal complaints were down from 374 to 349.

Medical assists were down from 368 to 345. Assaults were down from 38 to 17, the lowest total in five years.

Suspicious person/activity calls were down from 631 to 599, but were the second highest in five years.

Domestics and disturbances were down from 141 to 126, also a five-year low.

The Sheriff's Office also administers the county prison. McNurlin said the State prison system is full, so the Goodhue prison recently received a contract for $350,000 to board some prisoners for the state through June. Goodhue County hired three extra staff members to cover the increased load. The contract may be extended.

The GCSO added a canine to its staff this past year with financial assistance of a grant for the dog and training.

The sheriff said they have been effective in curtailing rural drinking parties in working with the County Chemical Health Initiative. Stopping out at a home that they hear is going to have a party before the party occurs is especially effective, he said.

McNurlin hopes the option to have a traffic ticket kept off the record if the offender attends a traffic safety training course is reinstituted. A recent court ruling on the program's legality forced suspension of the program.

McNurlin encourages all residents to go to the County website and sign up for Code Red Weather Alerts direct to your home, cell or work phone. He calls it a great tool in such a big county with so many isolated rural areas. "We can have blue skies in Pine Island and a tornado in Cannon Falls."

The County saw record new permits to carry issued in 2013 with 617 new permits issued and 97 renewed for a total of 710. That's double the 333 total in 2012, which was also a record. Concerns about changes in gun laws prompted the renewals, he said.

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