Sometimes the general public does not always see the work behind the scenes that the Lake County Sheriff's Office is working on or has completed.

In this edition of the "Sheriff's Corner," I discuss some of our current programs and initiatives.

NEW DRUG INITIATIVE (SHO-NUFF)

On Sept.11, I initiated a new drug interdiction and enforcement initiative to have a proactive approach on illegal drug activity in Lake County. I call this the SHO-NUFF initiative that stands for "Strike Hard On Narcotics Under Full Force." This is being done in a few ways.

• First, in the way of sting operations with putting several patrol vehicles out, targeting suspected drug areas or houses.

• Secondly, working collectively with area agencies and concept drug teams on providing intel with what we have already done and to keep the pressure on until we get prosecution or run them out of town.

• Thirdly, providing specialized training to look for illegal drug activity and drugged driving. For example, this has included DRE (Drug Recognition Expert) training, which we are proud to have someone with this certification which is rare with law enforcement agencies.

You may have seen a recent story where someone was charged with delivering or manufacturing methamphetamine. This is an example of working together with area agencies and mutual aid.

As you can see in recent social media posts, this type of enforcement comes at a cost or creates social media banter. Sometimes people don't like being pulled over for running stop signs or not using turn signals. But if they are leaving a drug house, it's probably going to happen.

Since this program has started we have made numerous drug arrests, taken illegal guns and drugs off the street. This program will continue to move forward.

WORKING WITH KIDS

It all starts out with the kids. They are the future, and we need to be setting them up for success in the way of programs, mentoring and interactions. This has included the establishment of the Sheriff's Explorer Program, a School Resource Officer and working on a community center.

The Explorer program is the first in northern Michigan and is open to children in the sixth grade all the way up to 20 years of age. They conduct police training twice a month, as well as working community events such as the Blessing of the Bikes, Irons Flea Roast and Feeding America. This program is paid through donations and not with tax dollars.

The School Resource Officer was implemented over a year ago to work with students and school staff at the Baldwin Community Schools. This is not meant to be a cop in the school, but more of a mentoring program to establish relationships with the kids and stop things before they happen. This has reduced incidents from occurring in the schools, bullying, a reduction in juvenile crime in the community, and a safer place for staff and students.

The Lake County area churches recently purchased a building that is located south of Baldwin, near Housemans. I have been working with them while they are establishing the county's only recreation room and community center. The hope is to make this a safe place for kids to hang out while also having some mentoring programs. We are always looking for donations in the way of pool tables, etc.

PATROL VEHICLES

There was a recent article questioning the current policy of road deputies taking home patrol vehicles. This is not a new practice, but was recently expanded to some deputies who live close to the county. There are several reasons why this practice is a good idea. Let me explain some of these advantages.

• Force Multiplier: This simply means there are more cars and cops out on the road at certain times. Someone will check into service as soon as they leave their driveway or hit the county line. Deputies can respond directly to a critical incident versus having to first go get a cruiser, then go to the scene.

Quick engagement and fast response only aides in the solving of crimes or effective immobilization. This timeframe is often referred to as the “golden hour” and is defined as the chaotic stage of an incident in which the crisis is still fluid, meaningful information is difficult to obtain and situational awareness seemingly impossible to establish. Time is of essence.

• Vehicle Maintenance: It's simple, deputies who take their vehicles home take much better care of their vehicle. Maintenance is done regularly and service work is more consistent. In the long term, the benefits outweigh the added expenses.

Patrol vehicles have been historically replaced on an average of two per year, generally when the mileage has reached over 100,000. Currently, as a whole, the road patrol is under budget and our fuel expenses are on track to be the same if not slightly higher than last year at this time before this policy was expanded.

HIRING AND RETAINMENT

I remember when I first started law enforcement in the early 90's you had hundreds of applicants for one position with large departments and sheriff's offices. That is no longer the case. Seldom are people choosing law enforcement as a career.

During the last two hiring phases, we had less than 5 applicants apply, and none of those were currently living in the county. As I tried to get an initiative passed a couple years ago about hiring local people, it was shot down by the commissioners at the time.

As it would be a blessing to hire only local applicants, we need to first have them here. So, we have to focus on retainment and what will aid in that mission. From speaking with my staff, several things are considered: salary, perks, management, retirement, working area and support from other county agencies.

Are they getting the support they need while doing their job? Do they have the tools? Are they provided the training?

Remember, every time we hire a new road deputy, it costs the county roughly an additional $15,000 for field training, shadowing an FTO and any needed OT in the training process.

ANIMAL CONTROL

We take pride in generally being a non-kill shelter. Due to this, we have been able to apply for several grants that we would not normally have the opportunity to do so. We received the 2017 Most Improved Shelter award on the vast improvements that have been made which included the lowering of our animal euthanasia by 21% in 2017 versus 2016, while also adopting more animals out and had more animals being returned to their owners.

NEW OFFICE STAFF

Joslyn Balulis joined our administrative staff this past month. Balulis is a long time employee of Lake-Osceola State Bank and was born and raised in the community. Alicia Holtz was also promoted to Office Manager of all administration support staff.

ROAD PATROL MILLAGE

The Lake County Sheriff's Office is the only law enforcement agency in Lake County. We do have support from the Michigan State Police as well as Conservation Officers from the Michigan DNR, however we are the primary response agency. To provide this service, we are paid primarily from the road patrol millage.

Now, this is nothing new but just a renewal of what you have been paying for ... for many years now. If this was not to pass, it would be a huge blow to the effectiveness of the Lake County Sheriff's Office and would make it all but impossible to properly maintain safety for the county as a whole.

SHERIFF'S COMMUNITY ADVISORY BOARD

This is a board that has members from each area of the county to serve as community relations between law enforcement and its citizens. Board members can bring questions to the sheriff's office and get answers on policies, procedures and concerns. This is also a direct line for law enforcement to hear the concerns of the community.

The board has been on hold since the COVID pandemic and has been unable to meet. This will resume as soon as it is safe and able. I will be looking for new members who are interested in coming on board.

PROPERTY CHECKS

Are you and your family going away on vacation. Let the Sheriff's Office know and we will check your property while you are away. We are offering property checks for residents in the county who will be away for the holidays or the winter season. If you are interested in this service, you will need to make sure you stop in the Sheriff's Office and complete a property check form.

This information is provided to you for clarification on specific laws, and not legal advice. This is not to be construed as a personal opinion, agreement or disagreement of any specific law. If you have any questions on any specific topic, you may always email me your questions to rmartin@co.lake.mi.us.