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Hubbard County’s deputies, jail are busy

By Sarah Smith

At a time when jail bookings have reached an all-time high, Hubbard County is searching for a new jail administrator.

And due to a commensurate increase in crime, the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Department wishes to hire a second investigator.

Sherri Klasen has stepped down from the jail administration post to become a jailer/dispatcher. A search for her replacement is underway.

Klasen has been the jail administrator since the facility opened in 2006 and has weathered criticism about the occupancy rate. She has been a county employee since 1984.

The crime rate, shortly after the facility was built, saw a decline and the jail, licensed to hold 116, only had an average daily population that hovered between 30 and 40 prisoners for several years. It operated in the red.

Things have been picking up lately, with a steady incline in bookings from Beltrami, Becker and other counties. Klasen is responsible for those increased daily occupancy rates.

“Yesterday we had 72 inmates,” Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes told the county board Tuesday. “Our female block is plum full. We’ve never had this before.”

The new jail administrator will have the authority to discipline staff, which Klasen had to pass on to Aukes.

Program director Joe Henry is running the facility currently as the search begins.

Due to the higher staffing levels and increased inmate population, more responsibility is needed to supervise the 21 full-time and 15 part-time employees, Aukes said.

Built at a cost of nearly $10 million, the jail, which hosted its open house in March 2006, has never fulfilled financial projections or expectations. Its vacant second floor was renovated last year to accommodate the Hubbard County Social Services Department.

The jail/dispatch center has requested a 13 percent increase for 2014, a budget of $1.8 million.

The existing job description has the jail administrator position responsible for managing a 24-inmate detention center. That will be rewritten to reflect the growing influx of prisoners and 116-inmate capacity.

The position will supervise both the jail and dispatchers, which Klasen has been doing.

Both positions have become highly technical and employees must be able to operate multiple computerized programs.

“This is important because computer literacy and skills were not necessarily a high priority when the existing job description was created,” said a sheriff’s memo of the proposed changes. “Now they are essential for this position.”

Klasen did not respond to an email request for comment.

A booming year

According to Aukes, 2013 is in line to become a record-breaking year for service calls, with a 24 percent rise in serious crimes since 1995.

Lesser crimes have seen an increase of 37 percent since 1995, according to statistics Aukes presented the board Tuesday.

Property crimes remain the same as in 1995 but white collar crimes such as forgery and fraud have risen 13 percent.

Aukes, when he ran for the job in 2010, promised he would have a full-time drug officer. He fulfilled that promise but it came at the expense of road deputies because the board curtailed any staff increases.

Aukes himself frequently takes a patrol shift after he’s finished his administrative duties. It’s not unusual to see the county sheriff pulling someone over on the highway, issuing them a citation.

Sometimes he’s in an unmarked vehicle.

But the complexity and severity of serious cases is taking time, Aukes told the board. Last year the department responded to nearly 8,200 calls.

The department’s sole investigator, Colter Diekmann, also frequently responds to traffic calls and other patrol duties.

Domestic incidents also have been on the rise with the county’s economy chugging along at a stagnant pace.

“These numbers reflect calls requiring investigations on anything from thefts, burglaries, child abuse, homicide, scams, financial crimes and many more,” Aukes indicated in a memo to the board.

It’s a juggling act the sheriff said he can’t keep performing.

Other changes

Dep. Jeff Stacey has been reassigned as well, now assisting with investigations and doing a great job, according to Aukes. Stacey was currently handling “serious felony” cases.

Stacey formerly was assigned strictly to patrol Nevis, which paid his salary.

Dep. Bill Schlag now has that assignment, made about a year ago.

Schlag has distinguished himself in his new role, too. In September, he responded to an ATV accident on the Hubbard/Cass county border south of Akeley.

By the time he’d finished investigating the crash, he’d uncovered clues leading to a multi-county burglary ring.

“They sure didn’t want me to see that ATV,” Schlag recalled last month.

The 4-wheeler turned out to be stolen, along with numerous items recovered after a search warrant was obtained. Dozens of charges were subsequently filed in Cass County and at least one person has been charged in Hubbard County.

And the county’s Emergency Management Director, Brian Halbasch, also a part-time road deputy, has been invited to sit on a panel about the Green Valley Fire at the upcoming Governor’s Conference in February 2014.

Solving crimes

Property crimes make up the majority of cases deputies deal with and, according to Aukes, burglaries have shown a 71 percent increase from 1996, the sheriff maintained. Hubbard County’s statistics in this area also eclipse the national average by 2½ times, the sheriff contended.

And in an equally vexing statistic, average losses of those burglaries exceed $1,000.

The clearance rate for burglaries has dropped from 51 percent in 1995 to 8 percent in 2012.

Theft clearance rates, 27 percent in 1998, have also declined to 8 percent in 2012.

Major crimes were not included in the sheriff’s clearance rate report, except to report the increases.

“I ask that you keep in mind the fact that we are continuously asking law enforcement to do more and more,” Aukes’ memo to the board stated. “I am OK with this but our clearance rates on property crimes simply need to increase… Asking officers to handle their 600-800 calls a year and then expecting them to be able to find the time to adequately investigate the most important ones has become too much to ask,” Aukes maintained.

The board will look at a request to revise the job description of the jail administrator’s post and the issue of a second investigator at the work session, set for Nov. 12.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

(218) 732-3364