Carson City public safety plan increased technology, enforcement in 2016
Despite tragedy bestowed on Carson City public safety officials, the Sheriff’s Office and Fire Department reported having a successful year. Looking forward to 2016, public safety officials said a lot will be coming from the two agencies with new projects, upgrades and enforcement for Carson City.
CRIME RATE AND CALLS FOR SERVICE
Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong calls 2015 “successful” in terms of a decreased crime rate, though both the fire department and Sheriff’s Office reported seeing an increase for calls for service in 2015.
In 2014, the city saw its lowest crime rate in 20 years, and Furlong said this past year’s rate was nearly identical.
“We did have a good year by comparison to the last three years,” Furlong said. “If we hadn’t experienced certain tragedies I would have been celebrating how great of a year we had.”
Though the crime rate is down, Furlong said there was cause for concern with the number of simple assaults and domestic violence incidents with one in three crimes being a simple assault.
“The area of concern continues to be assaultive type behaviors,” Furlong said. “Domestic violence is leading the problem and simple assault is at the top of the crimes we respond to.”
In addition to the simple assaults, Furlong said there’s been a large number of juvenile runaways. To combat these issues, Furlong said the Sheriff’s Office and other service agencies need to highlight community resources. By spotlighting service organizations such as F.I.S.H., Ron Wood Family Resource Center and Advocates to End Domestic Violence, among other organizations, it could help fix problems inside the home.
“These community resources need to be recognized because there are more than enough resources to fix any issue in the household,” Furlong said. “There is so much going on inside the house that is deserving of more attention by service agents and law enforcement.”
Furlong said while drugs and alcohol related calls still make up a third of the calls for service volume, the 2015 numbers are decreasing from previous years. The Sheriff’s Office also has been improving with recovering more stolen property. Furlong said the department has been doing well by minimizing the dollar value of stolen property and that’s something it will continue to focus on. The department reported more than $1.4 million stolen this year, with more than $347,000 recovered, which Furlong said is a good number.
“The numbers aren’t bad, because we are slightly above last year’s rate, but down 10 percent from 2013’s numbers,” Furlong said. “We are making good recovery rates as comparable to the national rates of a 20 percent recovery.”
Overall, the Sheriff’s Office has been seeing a decrease in the crime rate in the past month and expect the same pattern with the start of 2016. “We are standing in a good position,” Furlong said. “We are seeing the normal patterns which will have a significant impact on crime because we hope that if it continues, we will have another good year.”
While the crime rate is going down, Furlong said the department saw a 7 percent increase in the number of calls for service for 2015, with more than 26,000 calls recorded.
The Carson City Fire Department also has experienced a significant increase in its calls for service for fire and medical, said Fire Chief Robert Schreihans.
“We just finished our busiest year the Carson City Fire Department has ever had,” Schreihans said. “It’s because the fire department is the front line for every service and people call the fire department for everything, which is a good thing.”
Last year, the fire department had more than 9,600 calls for service, which totals to nearly 26 calls a day, an increase of nearly 8 percent from 2014. Schreihans said outside of Reno and Truckee, Carson is the busiest station in the area.
TECHNOLOGY UPGRADES FOR 2016
With the new year, the public safety entities for Carson City will be getting a major technology upgrade.
One of the big projects for 2016 will be the $1 million software upgrade the Dispatch center will receive in the spring. This upgrade will improve software for the records management and reporting systems that will improve 911 capabilities, poise the system for 911 texting and will improve location services to help dispatch response units to scenes.
Furlong said this upgrade is necessary, because the system hasn’t been updated in almost 15 years. He said it’s important for public safety officers to have this improved system because it’s their primary source of intelligence gathering.
Along with the new dispatch technology, the fire department is increasing its technology in hopes of creating a paperless system and to help eliminate steps when paramedics are helping patients.
One new technology the department is getting is the switch to IOS iPads. Each rig will be equipped with WiFi capability so paramedics can use the new technology, called Electronic Care Reporting, while on scene and send it to the hospital instead of spending the time to fill out paperwork. Schreihans said this is vital to the operation because paramedics can just send the hospital a patient’s information from the engine instead of waiting at the hospital.
“EMS can just transmit vitals to the emergency room so a heart attack patient can immediately bypass the emergency room because they can do the EKG in the rig. Now, we can notify the hospital then and the patient can go straight to the catheterization lab,” Schreihans said. “So that saves time and damage to the heart muscle.”
The iPads will also be equipped with new CAD systems, which makes dispatching to scenes quicker and easier for the firefighters.
“We are trying to get high tech to be a paperless system,” Schreihans said. “It reduces the times spent currently with our paper process and it allows our units to be open faster to respond to incidents.”
SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS
The School Resource Officer program is underway and is going to be continually monitored throughout the new year.
The School Resource Officer program is a grant-funded initiative that put a uniformed officer in Carson High School and each of the Carson City middle schools to try to make the schools a safer place. The sheriff’s office was awarded a $375,000 grant in October from the Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing. This allows the sheriff’s office to take three deputies from patrol and put them in the schools full-time for three years, with funding aid from the federal government.
“The school resource officers are a major shift in how we respond to juvenile related issues,” Furlong said. “It is unfortunate (with the state of society) that we have to have deputies in the schools, but we are so thankful that the Board of Supervisors and School Board agreed because then we can ensure that students become a priority.”
Furlong said he also hopes by having a uniformed officer in the schools, students are going to feel more comfortable around officers inside and outside of school to be able to approach them and use them as a resource.
“We want to create relationships to enhance schools,” said Furlong. “It is like stranger danger — how do we expect our students to trust an officer if you don’t know them?”
The program started on Dec. 11. An advisory board was created in November consisting of members of the Sheriff’s Office, juvenile probation, community members and other organization members who will monitor and make adjustments to the program as it blossoms.
Furlong said having these officers in the schools help families be able to better solve problems in the home because the presence of the SROs solve some juvenile problems.
Because the SRO program took three officers from the patrol division to put in the schools, it has created a large shift within the department with several officers changing duties. At the moment, the department has three officers in training for patrol and this shift could continue for the next three to six months within the department for the deputies to receive the necessary training before they can be on patrol as solo officers.
“It isn’t a nuisance to these department shifts,” Furlong said. “It is vital to be moving people around and ensuring that they are trained is a matter of business for the Sheriff’s Office.”
Furlong said Carson City residents can see an increase in enforcement activities during 2016, especially with narcotics enforcement.
The department was able to build narcotics task forces that’s going to target street level, middle level and high level users and dealers, which Furlong said has been a goal of his for some time. Throughout 2016, the department will be looking at narcotics enforcement to make sure it’s getting a good dollar return for the investment.
“2015 was a trial attempt to put Carson City in with major task forces that operate in the area and in a year we will update on our dollar returned to see if we can continue to work with that,” Furlong said. “It is still too early right now to create an expectation for future support, but I am optimistic.”
Furlong said these task forces and narcotics enforcements are necessary because they are seeing heroin and methamphetamine reaching epidemic levels.
“Proactive street enforcement activities that are being run here are important to the community because the special need for an enforcement team is to prevent significant crimes from occurring and they are doing a tremendous job,” Furlong said.
One major crime statistic Furlong hopes these teams reduce is the number of burglaries and robberies that occur in the city. Furlong said a majority of theft incidents are from heroin and methamphetamine addicts who are stealing to try to obtain drugs or are on drugs at the time of the incident, and he said he sees a correlation between the number of burglaries that occur and the narcotics problem.
“Burglaries are often associated with heroin and meth addicts,” Furlong said.
Another initiative the Sheriff’s Office will focus on will be mental health enforcement.
Furlong said in 2015, the department, the community and surrounding counties have done an excellent job at working together to try to address mental health needs in Carson City. By creating and expanding programs that deal with mental health, officials hope to be able to provide assistance so those with mental health needs get treatment instead of just going to jail.
“We have seen organizations’ cooperation sky rocket with local and state entities in assistance with our mental health programs,” Furlong said. “We are providing services designed to get treatment to those in need before it reaches crisis. This is significant because as we saw with IHOP, mental health is at the forefront for disasters when it comes to law enforcement.”
Coordination efforts between key players from Carson, Douglas and Lyon counties have increased in the past several months, and Furlong said he expects that to continue to grow into the new year as they work more to achieving assistance efforts.
The Carson City Fire Department will be looking at way it can obtain funds to build a new fire station in Carson City.
The $4 million project wouldn’t come into fruition until at least 2018, Schreihans said. He said the department is working with the city to determine how it raises the money for the multimillion dollar project. The station would go on the eastern side of Carson City in response to the possible city expansions in that area.
“Our last station was built in the early 1990s, but we haven’t had any additional station in a number of years,” Schreihans said. “We want to build it toward the east because that is where the city will start to grow.”
The fire department has three main stations on Stewart Street, College Parkway and Snyder Avenue with a temporary one on the Western Nevada College campus. There are only 51 firefighters and three engines right now and part of the new station funding would allow the department to get more hires and equipment as well.
The Sheriff’s Office is also looking forward to new equipment, with the department anticipating a fleet of new vehicles to replace the rapidly aging ones it has now.
The department will be getting six new vehicles, five SUVs and one pickup, but it won’t be receiving them until the spring.
Last year wasn’t without major challenges for Carson City public safety agents. On Aug. 15, the Carson City Sheriff’s Office lost one of its own when Deputy Carl Howell was killed in the line of duty while responding to a domestic disturbance. The community mourned for months after, with countless citizens stepping up to donate money to Howell’s wife and four children.
“Reflecting on 2015, what happened in this community was a tragedy,” Furlong said. “It is never easy when you lose an officer. But when I think of this, the words that I am reminded of most — and I think I can speak for myself, his family and our department — are from Mayor Crowell after the IHOP incident. He said ‘we don’t want to be known for our tragedies,’ so we miss Carl and we won’t ever forget him, but we won’t be known for him.”