Last Year’s Law Enforcement Stats Show New Issues

Last year wasn’t a significantly busier year for either the Yankton County Sheriff’s Office or the Yankton Police Department (YPD) in 2019, but both law enforcement entities had some big takeaways from the year.

YPD Commander Todd Brandt told the Press & Dakotan that arrests were up with some notable decreases.

“Our arrests were up by 132 in 2019,” Brandt said. “Looking at some of the comparatives, DUI arrests are down in 2019 versus 2018. … I think we’re doing a better job of enforcement when it comes to that.”

There were 1,249 total arrests in 2019 versus 1,117 in 2018.

The most notable rises in arrests were for narcotics (278 in 2018 versus 318 in 2019) and warrants (155 in 2018 and 220 in 2019).

YPD Chief John Harris said the rising number of drug cases is a cause for concern.

“That’s a huge event,” Harris said. “(Incidents) haven’t gone up dramatically other than the arrests and involvement there, but that’s always a concern.”

He said that another concern has been one that’s difficult to quantify.

“The other thing that we constantly deal with in our calls for service — and it’s broken over a whole number of categories and you can’t just pick out one category — is the mental health issues in our community,” he said. “We respond to the same people for different types of calls over and over and over again. One time, it may be some drug abuse; the next time, it may be disorderly conduct; the next time, they may be out in the cold on the highway. It may be the same person, so there’s three different types of calls. But the bottom line is, it was a mental health issue to begin with and it’s the recidivism that’s the problem.”

Harris said that the department will continue to strengthen ties with area mental health providers in the coming year.

“We’re trying to partner with them as much as we possibly can to see if we can treat the problem rather than symptoms,” he said. “We have a really good working relationship with them, but we’re trying to figure out ways so we can strengthen those relationships and provide better services as a department and as a community.”

The department is also looking at adding a second school resource officer (SRO) to the school district and will explore funding opportunities for its share of the cost throughout the year. The earliest a new SRO could be implemented is 2021.

On the other side of the Safety Center, Chief Deputy Sheriff Michael Rothschadl told the Press & Dakotan the county recorded a rather grim statistic in 2019.

“We had one murder that took place in 2018 that happened at the end of the year,” Rothschadl said, “And then two more in 2019, and I believe the city had one too, so we’re looking at four murders in Yankton County in a 13-month span.”

He said that this remains an area of surprise and concern.

“The one that hit us the most is the murders,” he said. “We haven’t had that in our area in a long time. To have that many so close together (is unusual).”

For overall calls for service, the county saw little variation — 2,322 in 2019 versus 2,315 in 2018.

On a positive note, the county saw fatal road accidents fall from seven in 2018 to one in 2019.

Rothschadl said that part of this may be attributed to schools and businesses taking more precautions in the face of adverse weather.

“With the bad weather we have, it seems like the schools and workplaces are proactive in calling things off before the storm,” he said. “In years past, everybody went to work and would then head home. It’s probably helped law enforcement out a lot doing that because we haven’t had near as many accidents during these storms because everybody’s staying at home.”

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