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County attorney says he sees both positives, negatives to his office's caseload over past year

WILLMAR -- The types of cases filed in the Kandiyohi County Attorney's Office shows both good news and bad news when it comes to a trend in crime.

In an update about the 2009 case load, County Attorney Boyd Beccue told the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that the overall assault cases were down last year, "which is a good thing."

But he said the number of disorderly conduct cases more than doubled from the year prior.

One reason for the increase could be how different law enforcement agencies submit a case for prosecution.

He noted a substantial decrease in first-degree controlled substance crimes. Those felonies went from 21 in 2008 to six in 2009.

Beccue's reasoning for the decrease is the "hard work" of law enforcement to put many active dealers in prison. "We've started to make a dent," he said, while cautioning that it may not last. Drug activity fluctuates, he said, and if there's a vacuum somewhere in the network, someone will fill it.

Cases of criminal damage to property decreased significantly the past year. Beccue attributed that to an extra emphasis placed on graffiti cases. Willmar police worked hard at identifying individuals damaging property with painted graffiti and his office consolidated the graffiti and gang activity with one attorney.

"We made inroads with that and are pleased with it," he said.

The effects of a tight economy may be resulting in increased reports of children being neglected and abused. In 2008 there were 64 child protection cases and 76 in 2009.

"It's an indicator of what's going on in the community," Beccue said. When money is tight, the number of kids being neglected and abused "seems to increase."

There were also seven tax appeals in 2009; there were four the year prior.

The economy may also be re-sponsible for increases in motor vehicle ca-ses. Failure to provide proof of motor vehicle insurance increased by 500 percent in 2009. The fine for this offense is cheaper than buying insurance. Beccue said some people are just taking their chances.

Offenses for driving after revocation increased from four cases in 2008 to 18 in 2009.

Cases of driving after suspension increased from three in 2008 to 20 in 2009.

Beccue also said there has been a significant increase in felony offenses of driving under the influence.

In 2008 there were no cases but in 2009 there were four. That's high for a county with a population of 40,000, he said. On the other hand, the number of less serious fourth-degree DUI cases has decreased.

In other action Tuesday:

- Commissioners tabled a request made by an individual to erect a large inflatable jumping castle at a county park this weekend for private use by children at a family gathering. The commissioners wanted additional information about liability issues. By delaying action, the commissioners in essence denied the request for this weekend, but they agreed additional information could be used to establish a policy for future requests.

- Commissioners authorized the public health department to continue to explore a potential partnership with the Redwood-Renville County Community Health Services for a shared employee to perform sanitarian inspection services.

- A hearing was set for 11:15 a.m. on May 18 to discuss a revised licensing ordinance for food, beverage and lodging establishments, manufactured home parks, recreational camping areas, youth camps and public pools. The draft ordinance can be seen at the public health office, the Willmar Public Library and at the county's website.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750