Law enforcement attributes a growing portion of local crime to heroin addiction.
That’s why Waupaca police and Waupaca County deputies are taking a proactive approach to the drug problem in an effort to keep the crime rate down.
“I heard about heroin, but I never saw it during my career until the last two years,” according to Waupaca Police Chief Tim Goke.
In the department’s annual report, Detective Sgt. Brian Hoelzel noted that Waupaca officers in 2014 arrested six people for distributing heroin and two people for possessing heroin.
“There was also one death involving the use of heroin and one heroin overdose,” the report says.
“The problem is that young kids try heroin once or twice, and they immediately become addicted to it,” Goke said.
“These people are addicted, and they start committing crimes to pay for their addiction,” Waupaca County Sheriff Brad Hardel said.
Crime in Waupaca
In 2014, the city of Waupaca saw a 32 percent rise in its overall crime rate.
According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Data, total reported crimes in Waupaca increased from 217 in 2013 to 286 in 2014.
The biggest increases were burglaries, which rose from seven in 2013 to 27 in 2014, and thefts, which increased from 167 to 219 over the same period.
Goke noted that 19 of the city’s 27 burglaries in 2014 occurred within a four-week period and were attributed to a single teenager who was arrested and adjudicated as a juvenile.
In response to the rash of burglaries that occurred in downtown Waupaca last fall, Goke began working with the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce to provide more information to local businesses.
He sent out information to downtown property owners alerting them to the problem and advising them to increase the security of their buildings, install extra lighting and lock the rooftop access to their buildings.
Increased patrols were also assigned to neighborhoods where there had been more crimes reported.
Four of the burglaries were drug-related.
“They were either trying to get money for drugs, or they targeted the house to get drugs,” Goke said.
While there was a sharp increase in crime from 2013 to 2014, Goke said the crime rate has remained fairly constant. There were a total of 265 crimes committed in 2010, 261 in 2011 and 253 in 2012.
Since 2005, the city of Waupaca has experienced a 12 percent decrease in total crime, Goke said.
According to the department’s annual report, criminal arrests in Waupaca decreased by 3 percent in 2014, while ordinance and traffic citations decreased by 12 percent.
City police made a total of 790 arrests in 2013 and 767 arrests in 2014.
Of the total arrests in 2014, 154 were drug-related, with 16 drug-related arrests involving juveniles.
Waupaca plans to increase it staff in July from 14 to 15 sworn officers.
“We haven’t had an increase in the number of officers in 10 to 15 years, yet our community continues to grow,” Goke said.
Goke said that while the number of calls Waupaca police responded to dropped from 11,373 in 2011 to 9,093 in 2014, the nature of some calls have become more time consuming.
“One mental health call can take an officer up to eight hours to process,” Goke said.
He explained that a typical mental health call often requires an assessment by the county’s Department of Health and Human Services staff, medical clearance from the hospital and transportation to a facility either in Green Bay or Fond du Lac.
“We had 16 mental health calls in February and seven mental health calls in March,” Goke said.
Waupaca County crime data
Waupaca County sheriff’s deputies respond to all crimes reported in the rural townships that do not have their own police departments.
They responded to a total of 626 crimes in 2014, up nearly 3 percent from the 606 crimes reported in 2013, but down nearly 9 percent from the 687 crimes reported in 2011.
“We’re trying to be proactive,” Hardel said. “We increased the patrol division by three officers and two of them are full-time drug officers.”
The additional patrol officers have resulted in a dramatic increase in traffic citations, which in turn has led to more drug arrests.
In 2013, deputies issued 2,569 traffic citations. They issued 3,366 citations in 2014.
The county’s drunken driving citations are also up with 166 OWIs in 2013 and 243 OWIs in 2014.
“We don’t want to wait to arrest the drunk driver after he crashes,” Hardel said. “We want to arrest him before he crashes and hurts someone.”
“Citations are way up due to extra patrols,” Patrol Capt. Todd Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen noted that the sheriff’s office has also increased the amount of overtime the patrol officers are working, especially during summer festivals and events.
“We had eight extra shifts during the St. Patrick’s Day festival in New London,” Rasmussen said.
The county has also increased the number of its canine units from two to three.
Each of the canine units works four 10-hour shifts, with the third dog working the day shift.
“We’re seeing a lot of requests from schools and police departments for searches,” Hardel said.
When deputies make a traffic stop and suspect drugs are in the car, they call for a canine unit. The dog will alert to the presence of drugs.
“The dogs are very accurate. We’ve not had any false hits,” Hardel said. “If the dogs alert to the presence of drugs, we find drugs 100 percent of the time.”
Hardel sees the traffic stops that become drug busts as another proactive tool.
“We don’t want to be responding to the drug addict who has overdosed, we want to be responding before he ODs and getting him the help he needs,” Hardel said.
Hardel said some drug users can be directed into treatment programs without a criminal arrest.
“But sometimes, it may take them being arrested, going to court and being placed on probation or deferred prosecution,” he said.
Hardel said law enforcement is more concerned with getting dealers off the streets.
“We want healthy prosecutions and sentences for these dealers,” Hardel said.