New year, new crackdown on drugs and gangs | NevadaAppeal.com

New year, new crackdown on drugs and gangs

by F.T. Norton

Appeal Staff Writer

This is the next in a series of stories by the Appeal and The Associated Press looking back at 2005 – and at what’s ahead for 2006.

Though construction on a new sheriff’s department building won’t be completed until 2007, the coming year will see some changes in the way law is enforced in Carson City, said Sheriff Kenny Furlong.

“Methamphetamine and other drug addiction problems have reached tremendous heights. Carson’s own methamphetamine coalition is leading a charge to educate, rehabilitate and create public policy that will have positive impacts,” he said.

Part of that effort is the creation of the Special Enforcement Team, or SET, headed by Deputy Bill Abbott and supported by six patrol deputies. Among the many duties related to drug enforcement, SET will retrieve information from the newly created Meth Hotline and make contact with suspected drug dealers and users.

“Our goal is simple – when a report or suspicion is received, I want to see our team on the doorstep of that residence. It’s a get-in-their-face philosophy,” Furlong said.

He said responding to the threat of gangs is also a priority.

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“The intimidation felt with the presence of declared gangs in the Carson City area is a major concern. Along with gangs come widespread drug availability, significant property damage, vandalism, thefts and horrendous violence,” he said. “Our Gang Unit personnel have proven themselves extremely effective in reacting to reported incidents, but in the next year, we would like to see a stronger, more proactive effort directed at prevention and education. This means you will see, with greater frequency, the Gang Unit officers in troubled neighborhoods.”

Furlong said he also intends to expand the size of the traffic unit from five to six motor officers and to increase traffic enforcement through grant programs, such as selective drunk-driving enforcement and education.

“Our goal is to reduce traffic accidents, property damage and fatalities in Carson City,” he said.

His top “community priorities” are: Expanding volunteerism, preventing false alarms, alcohol awareness enforcement and drug prevention.

“Volunteerism has been one of the greatest successes in the sheriff’s office that I have witnessed,” he said. “We will pool all of our resources and open them up to federal grants earmarked for crime prevention programs.”

A leading concern for the department is resources being tied up by responding to false alarms, he said.

“Over 2,000 false alarms are received annually. Beginning in January the department will implement a ‘false alarm reduction program’ targeting businesses with repeated alarms and those who do not wish to respond to their own alarm’s activation,” he said.

When police respond to a false alarm, a sheriff’s department representative will meet with the business owner in the coming days to discuss solutions with the repeat offenders. Furlong said he hopes this will reduce false alarms by 25 percent, but if not, he will be forced to asked for a city ordinance to fine repeat offenders.

Drug Awareness Resistance Education will continue in the elementary schools and expand to middle schools in 2006. The Sheriff’s Department is also taking part in “Stand Tall Don’t Fall” a high school-aged group that promotes sobriety and drunken driving awareness.

“This is a key investment in our future,” Furlong said.

A host of other community-outreach programs, including Cops N Kids, National Night Out, Sheriff’s Office Open House, will continue to receive support, he said.

Also in the coming year, Furlong said he will ask for six additional officers – two for detention and four for patrol. The cost will be $473,000 and would amount to a 6 percent increase in sworn staffing.

This year will also see the groundbreaking of the new Sheriff’s Administration Complex located on the same property.

In recent weeks the department’s patrol and records divisions moved to the city’s corporate yard on Butti Way in preparation for the demolition of an exterior building.

“The need for this project began as far back as 1988 and is long overdue,” he said. “Countless reviews, patching of pipes and walls, cramming for square-footage needs and deteriorating construction has left us no options for the 1960s building.”

The sheriff has elected to keep key public-service offices open at the 901 East Musser Street location during construction, to include: administration, civil, detective, lab, evidence and business division.

“There is no doubt in my mind of the turmoil our employees will face during the next 18 to 24 months, but it is the best route to take considering staggering costs and disjointed efficiency caused by breaking the department up all over town,” he said.

— Contact reporter F.T. Norton at ftnorton@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1213.