Portage County Sheriff: Drugs prompt many crimes

by MIKE SEVER | RECORD-COURIER REPORTER Published:

Drugs are the driving force behind criminal activity in the area, according to Portage County Sheriff Dave Doak.

Doak recently released his office's annual report for 2013 that showed criminal offenses reported last year increased more than a third -- to 7,505 -- compared to 5,464 in 2012.

But Major Dale Kelly said part of the increase is because of better reporting and record keeping. "A lot of the increases are due to better documentation," Kelly said, after the sheriff's office switched to a new record keeping program.

Still, drugs are the root cause of much of the crime. Doak said burglaries, break-ins and other property crimes are because drug-abusers are stealing items to sell to support their addiction.

The Portage County Drug Task Force reported 180 arrests last year, up from 132 arrests in 2012. The task force reported 87 methamphetamine labs discovered and shut down.

The annual report shows the office conducted 4,119 criminal investigations last year, down from 4,310 in 2012. And the number of breaking-and-entering investigations dropped from 152 to 126 last year. Burglaries dropped from 194 to 136 while thefts went up from 225 to 251.

"We got a lot of [offenders] off the streets," Kelly said. "But there's always new ones taking their place."

Another 1,087 larcenies which involved thefts of more than $200 were reported, totaling nearly $700,000 worth of stolen property. That includes 406 residential burglary and breaking and entering offenses. The value of stolen property totaled $354,361.

The larcenies also included 401 thefts from buildings, 180 shoplifting offenses, 145 thefts from motor vehicles, six thefts of motor vehicles parts or accessories and three purse snatchings.

THE SHERIFF'S office reported the value of stolen goods and property exceeded $1.14 million last year.

As criminal activity rose last year, so did the number of requests for permits to carry a concealed weapon. Doak's annual report listed 2,434 permits issued last year, up from 1,465 the previous year. Of the 2013 number, 775 permits were renewals and 1,659 were new issues.

Jail bookings continued to increase -- up 289 last year to 5,006 -- compared to 4,717 in 2012. Bookings of female inmates rose from 1,251 to 1,331, while male bookings increased from 3,466 to 3,675. The average female population per day went down from 44 to 41, but that is still over the jail's certified 34 beds for females.

In working with school administrators around the county, Doak's report noted that hours spent on DARE events and activities rose from 3,374 in 2012 to 4,623 last year. Other hours devoted to school visits by deputies increased 77 percent from 700 to 1,240 hours.

ALICE training, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate, for schools increased from 120 to 200 hours. The training is to teach adults and students how to react if an active shooter enters their school.

Again, Kelly said, the department has improved its record keeping, accounting for most of those increased hours. All school districts within the sheriff's office responsibility have received training, he said.

The report showed sheriff's deputies responded to 24,347 incidents last year, a 12 percent increase over 2012. The sheriff's office covers all municipalities in Portage County that do not have their own police force.

Ravenna Township was first with 4,441 calls, followed by Shalersville at 3,161, and Franklin Township third with 2,971 calls.

Email: msever@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4154

Facebook: Mike Sever, Record-Courier

Twitter: @MikeSever_RC

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