Archive for Wednesday, April 5, 2000

Grants to fund more officers for the county

April 5, 2000

A $1 million grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation will put four more sheriff's traffic officers on Leavenworth County roads.

And along with that, Leavenworth County will pay for an additional two more traffic officers.

Even though the purpose of adding the six new officers is to help with traffic patrol, Leavenworth County sheriff Herb Nye believes that in the long run it may help fight crime.

This pleases Jeanette Klamm, a resident of southern Leavenworth County whose rural residence has been burglarized three times during the last two years.

A year ago February, vandals parked at the foot of the gated driveway at the home of Tony and Jeanette Klamm.

"They walked up the driveway, kicked the door in, took all they could carry and went back carrying it all to their vehicle," Klamm said.

Most recently, someone backed up to the Klamm's garage, hoisted a garden tiller and made off with it in their pickup truck, Klamm said.

"My father-in-law saw them," she said. "He followed them. He got a description of the vehicle but couldn't see the license plate."

During the last two years, she's made five complaints to the sheriff's department regarding trespassing and theft at her residence, and Klamm said it just takes too long for officers to respond.

"At the minimum it's taken 20 minutes," she said. "And at the most it's been an hour and a half. At that point, it's too late."

Klamm said she looked into the situation at the sheriff's department.

"We found out that there are only three deputies on duty at any one time in the county," she said. "Then we learned that this is the same number of officers that they had on duty 20 years ago."

This doesn't correspond to the county's growth, she said.

"Anyone looking at things around here can see the population isn't the same as it was 20 years ago," Klamm said.

According to Leavenworth Area Development numbers, in 1980 the county's population was 54,809. The most recent estimate, for July 1998, put the total number of people living in the county at 71,288.

And so when Klamm says the county needs more deputies, the sheriff's response is this:

"Amen," Nye said. "I agree with the lady 100 percent. I would love to have more officers out there."

There are opponents to using patrol officers to help prevent break-ins, Nye said.

"They say 'Prove to me that it works to prevent burglaries,'" Nye said. "The only way to prove it is to pull your officers off the roads and leave everyone to the mercy of the wolves."

Marked units patrolling county roads have a positive effect, Nye said.

"If nothing else it gives people peace of mind to see patrol units in the rural areas," Nye said. "How do you put a price tag on that?"

As soon as the six new officers are hired and trained, they will be on duty patrolling traffic in unincorporated areas of the county.

Burdel Welsh, undersheriff responsible for completing the KDOT grant application, said this should help.

"This will take the load off of the other officers and they can still respond to in-progress crimes and will be able to look for suspicious activity," Welsh said.

The new officers will drive patrol cars that look much like the other sheriff's office cars.

"With the exception of the word 'traffic' on the cars, the public won't know the difference," Nye said.

The heaviest number of burglaries in Leavenworth County tend to occur south of U.S. Highway 24-40, east of Tonganoxie.

Oftentimes the houses burglarized are in clear view of passing traffic.

For instance, the Klamm's house, a half-mile north of Kansas Highway 32, sits on a rise behind their gated driveway and there are no trees or structures that obscure the view.

Burglary rates for southern Leavenworth County have risen in recent years, Nye said. Welsh said that since the first of February, there have been at least a dozen burglaries in the south part of the county.

Nye said that estimate is probably on the low side.

"We have one or two people actively burglarizing our area," he said. "We have suspect vehicles we're looking for. They seem to go wherever they think there's easy pickings."

Rural residents are asked to take note whenever anyone stops at their homes to ask directions, Welsh said.

"If you answer the door they'll ask directions," Welsh said. "If you're not home they'll break in."

The county appreciates tips about suspicious activity, whether it's about someone knocking at a door or a car or truck parked along a road, Nye said.

"If you meet a lost stranger asking directions and you think something's unusual, give us a call," Nye said. "If we get the same description from 10 different houses, then obviously these guys aren't looking for directions."

Welsh said that last week a homeowner in the northern part of the county caught a burglar in action.

"We now have a suspect in custody," Welsh said.

"Whether he's responsible for burglaries down south, we don't know."

Meanwhile, Klamm hopes the burglaries can be stopped. If it takes the county spending even more money to do it, she's in favor of that, too.

"Everybody's property taxes go up for everybody every year including ours," she said. "So where does all that money go if it's not going to go into law enforcement?"

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