IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - The Bonneville County Sheriff's Office has received almost 28,000 calls for services so far this year. In July alone, there were about 3,205 calls made to dispatch.
Sergeant Bryan Lovell says the Bonneville County Sheriff's Office has seen a steady increase of violence, domestic and disturbance related calls within the last six months.
He says in the last three months, the calls for batteries and assaults have sometimes doubled from the previous month.
“We’ve had our fair share of things that feel like they’re a little bit more often than they were 10, 15, 20 years ago,” Lovell said.
Sergeant Lovell says there is a significant amount of drugs in our area and overdoses related to heroin. He says an organized drug trade does exist within our community.
The sheriff's office received 29 overdose, suicide or other psychiatric related calls in July alone.
Deputies are very proactive in dealing with drugs within our community.
“We don’t want those kinds of things to infiltrate and take over our community here,” Lovell said.
He says there is a connection between violence and drugs. Bonneville County has seen gang-related homicides. Some of these gangs are based out of California; one of the states most known for relocating to Idaho.
He also says about 80% of property crimes, such as theft, are drug-related as well.
“That’s where those things can become real dangerous because the lesser piece of it is the property crime, the bigger piece of it is the drug trafficking,” Lovell said.
There has also been an increased number of shootings. Lovell says in March and April, there were one or two SWAT calls per week and most of those were suicidal barricades.
“SWAT callouts over the last year or so have increased probably at least 50% from the year before,” Lovell said.
The Bonneville County SWAT team works with other counties to handle violent and dangerous situations as quickly and safely as possible. Criminals often travel across Eastern Idaho and a working relationship with other enforcement agencies is helpful in detaining suspects. It is also beneficial to the community because it removes violent situations from the streets.
Lovell says we have a very supportive community that doesn’t want crime, violence, or drugs within our area. Lovell says the community is very helpful in reporting crimes and information to law enforcement. He says this helps local law enforcement because they can’t be everywhere at once. These types of reports help curtail the crime.
“It sends a message to the criminal element that says, ‘I don’t have to just watch out for law enforcement, I gotta watch out for neighbors and people in the community’ because they will call and report suspicious activity, they’ll call and report criminal activity, and they are watching...they are working to keep their area sage and they know what belongs and what doesn’t,” Lovell said.
Sergeant Lovell believes the increase in crime is proportionate to the population growth within our community. He says as the population increases, so will the crime rate.
The service calls for mental health related issues are also increasing. Lovell says the pandemic may be playing a role in the increased disturbance and domestic-related calls. People may be more stressed due to the state of the world right now and reacting poorly and sometimes violently. There are many stress-related factors Bonneville County law enforcement hasn’t experienced in years prior. However, Lovell says mental health related calls have started to stabilize.
“Early on, when COVID-19 was really starting to affect people and it was new, after awhile, as there’s some stresses and things like that with people that are already dealing with the stresses of life and mental health issues and so some of those types of calls increased for us,” Lovell said.
East Idaho Behavioral Health Crisis Center Clinical Director Liz Yanez says over the last six months, the crisis center has seen an increase in client referrals from law enforcement. Law enforcement refers clients to the crisis center to help them get stabilized if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol or may be struggling with mental health issues instead of taking them to jail.
“I think that these last three or four months have really taken an impact on individuals in different areas, whether it’s financial or emotional, and I think that’s what we’re starting to see now is just individuals trying to cope with these last three or four months of being isolated.”
Yanez says the crisis center has seen an increase in clients from outside the Bonneville County area as well as from out of state.
From July 1 to July 23, dispatch received the following number of calls:
- 225 related to disturbances, sex abuse, assault, weapons, and domestic violence
- 120 property crimes including burglary, theft, and shoplifting
- 29 overdose/suicide or psychiatritc calls
- 94 crashes involving property damage, injury or hit and run
- law enforcement made nearly 500 traffic stops