Traffic, technology and staffing main priorities for 2017 for Carson City Sheriff’s Office, Carson City Fire Department | NevadaAppeal.com

Traffic, technology and staffing main priorities for 2017 for Carson City Sheriff’s Office, Carson City Fire Department

A Carson City Sheriff's deputy and Carson City firefighter work together at the scene of a minor vehicle acident.
Jim Grant | Nevada Appeal

In 2016, both the Carson City Sheriff’s Office and Carson City Fire Department saw a large call volume, though only the fire department exceeded call numbers compared to recent years.

As of November, the fire department had responded to 9,457 calls. Fire Chief Bob Schriehans said the department fully expects to hit the 10,000 mark by 2017.

“This has been one of the busiest years for response,” Schriehans said. “It just keeps rising over the years, and we are expecting to push over 10,000 which is extremely busy for a three station fire department.”

Schriehans said the ideal solution would be to build another station. However, a new fire station would cost millions to build and millions to maintain.

“Please folks, just slow down, secure your property and if something doesn’t feel right then just call us. We developed our non-emergency line – 775-887-COPS—so people can be comfortable to tell us any non-emergency information.” Sheriff Ken Furlong

For now, the department is trying to look at ways to be more efficient. One difficulty is that East Fork Fire Department, who helped Carson when needed, realigned its substations and no longer staffs near the county line like it did previously.

“The challenge is that we are so busy, so we are looking at alternative ways to respond with the staff we have,” Schriehans said. “Losing East Fork will definitely impact us and impact our delay in transport.”

This means that the department may not always have an ambulance right away on calls; however, there are medics on all fire engines, so medical calls won’t be delayed.

The department will begin to discuss how to respond better to calls. Schriehans said the department anticipates with the building of The Vintage at Kings Canyon, it will see an increase of at least one to two calls a day.

“As The Vintage builds it will impact our call take and that is a challenge for us as we have to work to find new resources and personnel to combat that,” Schriehans said. “That adds at least 365 calls to our call volume.”

“Our biggest thing is to increase our response capabilities. It will be under review how we respond and if we can handle those in a different way to meet demand, so whether that be to have them sit on scene or put in a backup engine, we will see.”

Over on Musser Street, the Sheriff’s Office also has received a large volume of calls for service; however, the numbers are comparable to those of 2015. By the end of the year, Sheriff Ken Furlong estimates they will see more than 24,000 calls for service for the public, which is what the department anticipated coming into 2016.

Though the call volume has been high for the deputies, several crime rate categories have decreased during the last 12 months.

“We are pleased with the results we are seeing as a community as a whole,” Furlong said.

Major crimes — rape, robbery, burglary, homicide— aggravated assaults, DUIs and drunk and disorderly charges have all decreased in volume this year, Furlong said. Through November, major crimes are down to 992 in 2016 from 1,019 in 2015; vandalism is down to 295 in 2016 from 332 in 2015; crimes against persons is down to 141 in 2016 from 150 in 2015; and crimes against property is down to 851 in 2016 from 869 in 2015.

Furlong said the most important decrease the department has seen is in juvenile-related crimes in the community. At the start of 2016, Carson City officials wanted to focus on reducing crimes juveniles typically commit, including vandalism and other property crimes.

“Over the last 12 months there has been considerable emphasis on the juvenile population and welfare,” Furlong said.

Furlong credits the emergence of the Teen Center at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Western Nevada, the joint venture between the sheriff’s office and Carson City School District with the School Resource Officers and reaching out as much as possible to educate.

“We are very pleased with the preliminary indicator that juvenile crime is decreasing,” Furlong said. “This is a strong indicator that the future may be beginning to show a positive interaction, it shows the money and resources we implemented are doing well and we are pleased with that.

“When we look at a 10 percent decrease with juvenile statistics, it is similarly reflected in vandalism statistics which is down 11 percent. That’s people’s property, it is our homes, our cars, and businesses.”

Furlong said while crime has gone down in certain areas, 2016 has been a decent year.

“For us, 2016 wasn’t necessarily outstanding, but it was a very good year,” Furlong said.

Part of this is the fact that 2014 was one of the lowest crime rates since 1995 and 2015 saw a slight increase.

“What is pleasant about 2016, while it was good, it wasn’t outstanding compared to extraordinary years with our lowest numbers,” Furlong said. “We haven’t toppled 2014, but we are right there with the best of the best numbers we have had.”

TRAFFIC

One area the Sheriff’s Office sees for improvement heading into a new year is the increase in traffic-related incidents.

“One of our city’s weakest points is traffic accidents,” said Furlong. “At this point, accidents are up 10 percent than last year, and that is troublesome.”

Furlong said most of the accidents have been fender-bender like incidents, however, it still is concerning as it indicates that distracted driving is increasing. DUI arrests also have increased 25 percent since 2015, with 220 people arrested for DUIs in 2016.

“The leading indicators on accidents have been these non-injury accidents which showed the greatest increase,” Furlong said. “With the onset of winter, slippery conditions, and holiday parties, we don’t expect that to change.”

According to the Sheriff’s Office, between Nov. 19 and Dec. 2 there was 90 traffic related calls for service, with 48 of those call being non-injury or unknown injury.

Furlong said the department will focus on distracted and dangerous driving in 2017.

“We need a better grasp on that this year,” Furlong said. “I apologetically sent a memo to our patrol unit to crack down on distracted driving and people who are challenging yellow lights. As a community, we really need to slow down.”

Furlong also wants to begin working on reinstituting a traffic management unit within the patrol department. The unit’s sole responsibility would be to focus on traffic related incidents.

“A traffic enforcement unit was removed with the economy and resulted in accidents, injuries and pedestrians hit and I think that full-time enforcement needs to come back in,” Furlong said.

While the department can’t immediately enact a full unit because of budget limitations, Furlong hopes to start phasing in positions to begin building that unit over time. His vision is to try and replace some of the department’s functions to free up deputies to focus on traffic.

Furlong said he hopes people will continue to call the Sheriff’s Office when they are concerned with traffic or any other issues around Carson City.

“Please folks, just slow down, secure your property and if something doesn’t feel right then just call us,” Furlong said. “We developed our non-emergency line – 775-887-COPS—so people can be comfortable to tell us any non-emergency information.

“Call us; we are happy to get into an area and determine what is right.”

TECHNOLOGY 2017

With the upcoming year, both agencies are looking toward improving the infrastructure by starting upgrades and improvements toward several technological aspects.

One upgrade that will impact the entire community will be a $1.2 million upgrade for the 911 system.

The Sheriff’s Office and Dispatch Center will go to the Board of Supervisors in January for final approval of the funds for the software upgrade, but Furlong said he anticipates it will pass.

The old system is aged out and won’t be supported by AT&T’s network. The new system — if approved and once installed — will include a texting 911 option and other features to help open abilities to contact every service.

“The upgrade will make it more robust and will put us in compliance with the new FCC regulations,” said Karin Mracek, Carson City communications manager. “It will also be more reliable and user-friendly on our end.”

The fire department also will see some new technological upgrades that will be used to make their jobs a little easier.

All of the engine and rescue vehicles in the fire department will be equipped with new Electronic Care Response technology and Wi-Fi capability to allow the firefighters and medics to write and send reports electronically via iPad tablets in the rigs.

“It is a huge change for us because we are still writing out our reports of paper,” Schriehans said. “This will help the time on the crews so they will no longer have to write, scan and send their reports; everything will now just be automatically uploaded to the cloud for them and the hospital to access. This will simplify the process and reduce their work load.”

Both departments will start looking at new vehicles to replace the rapidly aging fleet both agencies have.

The Sheriff’s Office has begun their replacement process, buying four new SUVs and a pickup truck for their officers in 2016.

Last month, the fire department was given a new chassis for their ambulance from a donation from Firehouse Subs. However, the department still needs to replace most of its vehicles because of aging.

“This puts a strain on our resources as our fleet ages and we have to creatively fund new trucks and rescues,” Schriehans said. “We got one fleet with a grant, but if I had a magic wand, I would replace all of them.”

FIRE STAFFING

The fire department will see a lot of personnel changes in the coming year.

“We had some major personnel changes this year,” Schriehans said. “ We have had quite a few people retire so we will have a whole new group of folks now.”

Among those retirements were both Deputy Chief Bob Charles and Battalion Chief Tom Tarulli. Both of those positions have yet to be filled, Schriehans said.

“It is a challenge to keep our staffing full, but that is also pretty typical for a department this size,” Schriehans said.

Schriehans also is working to fill five other vacancies.

The department will be sending several new firefighters through the 10-week Fire Academy beginning in January. The academy is a regional program and will have the biggest class in several years.

“Everyone is picking folks up and we have the largest representation of agencies this year,” Schriehans said. “We are sending five to the academy, which is huge for us. We only have 55 firefighters so 10 percent of our crew will be brand new.”

Though even with the new crews coming in, the department is still short with manpower and Schriehans expects to go to the Board ofSupervisors to ask for funding more firefighters.

“This year will require more manpower,” Schriehans said. “We haven’t increased our numbers in 25 years.”

Thanks to a grant from the Southern Nevada Land Management Purchasing Act, the department will be able to hire a fuels management officer position to the department.

This position will be in charge of helping create a wildland interface to reduce the threat to the Sierra. The $2 million competitive grant will add this officer to help create and pay for this position.

“It is to reduce wildfire and risk to the community,” Schriehans said. “It will try and reduce the wildfire footprint we have on the west side of the Sierra front and will help keep the community safer from wildfires.”