The Future of Our Public Safety

Karen Website-- Sheriff 11 Apr, 2016

Who’s Responsible for Public Safety? Public safety is one of the primary duties of the county commissioners. While our Sheriff is an elected official, the Larimer County Commissioners determine his budget. Public safety includes running and staffing the jail, policing all areas of unincorporated Larimer County, serving the town of Berthoud, search and rescue, water dive team rescue, parole, and serving warrants, etc.

Current Jail Populations

There have been recent numbers showing that the Larimer County Jail is at or near capacity. This causes issues with the safety of both the Deputies and other staff who work there, as well as the inmates themselves. It is a situation that is unacceptable and not sustainable. Incarceration is also very expensive, and many of those in the county jail spend most if not all of their time either awaiting trial, or even serving their entire sentences in our jail. So what we need to find are solutions that a) keep everyone who is involved safe b) are fiscally responsible and c) are humane and compassionate.

Mental Health Services

Probably one of the largest issues we have in Larimer County is what to do with our mentally ill citizens who commit crimes. There are many levels of mental illness that our law enforcement deals with, but the most difficult are perhaps the physically violent mentally ill. As a society, we have all but done away with institutionalizing citizens with mental illness. With drug therapy and a host of other options, many mentally ill can go on to lead productive and happy lives. However, many also end up in our jails. In fact, a large percentage end up at the Larimer County jail, and the staff is not equipped to handle many of the issues that come with their incarceration.

Mental Health & the Jail – What to Do?

I am a firm believer that many of the mentally ill in our jail could be better served in a mental health center. It is unacceptable to me that with the amount of revenue the commissioners receive, they have not yet addressed this issue to date. The revenue stream for 2016 is up over 12 percent. There are ample savings, and there is an immediacy to do something to fix the jail problem. I believe the answer is twofold: First, we must build a mental health facility to assist with those mentally ill. Second, we need a detox center, so that our Deputies are not driving all the way to Weld County (as they currently do) to detox citizens that live here in Larimer County.

I believe that if we begin the serious conversations surrounding the jail, and realize the necessity of both a mental health/detox center, we can start the process of lowering the number of inmates currently incarcerated. It should not be expected that the Larimer County Deputies have the know how to work with every sort of mental illness, and they should not be put in a position of such personal risk from the inmates who are mentally ill and dangerous. For the safety and well-being of all involved, this would be one of my primary efforts once elected County Commissioner.

Homeless Populations

Another area that greatly contributes to our jail population are the homeless and transient inmates. There are many success stories that we can look to for ways to greatly reduce the problematic homeless inmates, and find them housing and keep them out of the jail. A collaboration between Larimer County, other communities in our region, local churches and other shelters, can greatly reduce our homeless populations. Looking to states like Utah, which has built apartments to reduce homelessness, we see that once you have home security, many homeless are much more successful in dealing with their mental illness and substance abuse issues, along with the homeless whose primary need is home security before they can find a job.

Our Veterans

It is shameful to me that we have homeless veterans living in Larimer County. These men and women who risked their lives to give us our freedoms, deserve better than what we have given them. I know there has been some work done in collaboration with the governor’s office, but I believe we have so much more to do. This is an area that is near and dear to me, as my father, who served in WWII, just passed away 2 years ago. We must honor our veterans!

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