2013 Public Safety outlook: Alcohol incidents a priority for sheriff
Sheriff Ken Furlong knows the root of almost all the violence in his community. The presence of alcohol and drugs haunt the violent arrest reports. “I want to see the simple assaults come down,” Sheriff Ken Furlong said. “They’re alcohol (and drug) related.”As Furlong gazes into the coming new year, he sees what he hopes to be snowstorms brewing. With each storm, and its precipitation, comes a drop in downtown violence.“Weather has a huge, huge impact on what we do,” he said.When the storms lift and the sun brings warmer temperatures, Carson City’s denizens will be enjoying themselves in full force. When that fun goes too far and a fight breaks out, there is a problem.“You’re usually going to find alcohol or substance abuse involved” in the fights and assaults, he said.The sheriff’s office, along with a slew of other agencies, is already fighting the proliferation of drugs through the community. Alcohol, on the other hand, requires a different approach to quell the violence related to loosened tongues, limbs and minds.“The city has an open container ordinance,” Furlong said. “We’ve been very business-friendly but I am looking at stepping up enforcement,” so patrons will not be able to take their drinks outside of the establishment.Furlong said he will work with business owners to make increased enforcement of open container laws to be as painless as possible.The fights start and end in the streets. With an increased focus on the downtown area, “maybe we can prevent some (fights),” he said.“We want to create a more festive environment, not a violent one,” he said.Assaults are not the only place alcohol has seeped in. The number of people arrested for DUI has increased 32 percent over last year, although the number arrested may be attributed to stepped-up enforcement. “The majority (of DUI arrests) are officer initiated,” Furlong said.Driving under the influence is a dangerous proposition. Preventing drivers from getting behind the wheel after a few too many drinks will prevent bloodshed.“This is a small town and there is no reason for alcohol to be the cause of someone’s death,” he said. “There’s something we can do without.”Through the work of Sgt. Darrin Sloan, the Joining Forces grants from the Department of Public Safety have proved to be fruitful. The grants provide funds for increased traffic and DUI enforcement, along with DUI checkpoints.“Our streets have been much, much safer year after year,” he said.As 2012 reaches its end, the case of $300,000 of allegedly stolen property uncovered by a state parole and probation officer offers closure to a rash of burglaries in the area. “One catch can mean so much to so many people,” Furlong said. Twenty-two victims were named in a police report and had identified and recovered at least some of their stolen property. Timothy Sparacino and Jeira Polanco were each charged with 22 counts of possession of stolen property after the Dec. 11 search of their apartment.Despite the spate of burglaries, the amount of stolen property is down 12 percent over 2011 and the $300,000 find will result in 2012 having a high rate of stolen property returned to its owners.There are more than 3,600 active warrants, compared with 3,000 in 2009. The list of warrants is available on the sheriff’s website at carson.org under the link, “Carson City Most Wanted.” The list is ordered alphabetically with about 40 names on each of the 90 pages.“The number is climbing continually,” Furlong said, although not all the warrants are for locals.“Most of them are traffic-related,” he said. “They can be easily addressed” through paying the fine at the Carson City Courthouse. “Even those who are down and out, the courthouse will work with them 100 percent of the time” to make a plan to pay off the fine.Prior to 2010, the sheriff’s office had more officers and personnel and could more easily handle the number of warrants.“We had more folks, but we don’t have them anymore,” Furlong said. He has asked City Hall for funding for a person to handle warrants exclusively.“2013 is going to be a good year. We will focus on alcohol. We will focus on the bars,” he said.