By Lynne Phillips
Huron County covers 500 square miles and has 60,000 residents Sheriff Dane Howard told New London Rotary Club members during a recently held meeting."The resident number goes up by thousands in the summer," he said, "due to the migrant population that comes here to work." He said, "The reality is, they don't affect our crime rate and this is the opposite of what a lot of people think. There is some crime associated with the migrant population but it is not equal to our resident crime rate." Sharing some of the statistics of the department, he said, "In 2013 the sheriff's department handled 7,040 calls. There were 1,936 prisoners booked into jail and 3,239 civil papers were served. "Six thousand seven hundred and forty four criminal reports were generated," he said, "which means there were 6,744 victims." Additionally 410 accidents were responded to by officers, 176 domestic disputes, 321 theft complaints and 232 drug investigations. The department had $87,969 in inmate medical expenses. "That is down quite a bit," Howard noted. "2013 was a busy year," Howard said adding, "and we are on a hot track to maybe being even a little busier this year." He told club members the county's drug problem remains and is not getting any better. On a slightly better note, Howard reported the burglary (home invasion) rate is down. However, reports indicate the breaking and entering (non-occupied structure) rate is up. Speaking about a subject that is quite often taboo, Howard said the suicide rate in Huron County is bad. "It is astronomical," he commented. When asked what age range the victims were he said there doesn't seem to be any one age range. "There are no boundaries there. It is all ages. "The suicide rate nationwide is astronomical, but it is really bad here in this county," he said, "and I am deeply concerned about it." He noted there was a period of time where there were numerous suicides coupled with a substantial number of sex crimes against adult females. "That is not only a large number of victims," he pointed out, "it is a large number of victim's families that have been affected." Explaining he said, "There are the victims, then there are the husbands, wives, grandparents, children, grandchildren who all feel the after effects. "Think of the effect those crimes have on a family," he urged, "then consider the effect they have on the detectives. It has a horrible effect," he stated. "And I would ask you to keep all of those people in your prayers. "Those crimes have an long term effect on everyone involved." In nearly 30 years of law enforcement Howard related he has seen more of the effects of crime than a lot of people. "But mainly," he said, "I have seen a significant change in how people treat one another. How they react to one another. It is almost like there is a portion of our society who is not interested in each other. "When I was kid," he said, "my neighbors knew what I was doing all the time." Amid the laughter of the audience he said, "You had contact with your neighbors and they let you know if you were doing something wrong. We probably still do that in New London. I think people here are pretty connected. But I think there are a lot of people, a significant part of our communities that seem to pull back. It isn't that we don't care about each other but we present ourselves in that fashion and in order to make things better I think we have to get back to basics as a culture. We see a lot of bad things all the time causing people to develop a shell around themselves, a bit of a crust. We need to care and find ways to reach out to people." He commented, "I can't imagine the heathen I would have been if I hadn't had good, Christian parents, parents who sometimes pounded what was right into me on my rear end. I just don't know where or how I would have turned out without parents with that belief and teachers and neighbors who cared. They were tough but they cared. They cared about me succeeding, they cared doing the right thing. I think that is what we are losing as a culture." Howard said when people ask him what has changed that is what he tells them. "I believe what has changed is we have gotten away from the small ways of showing we care for one another that made this country great." While Howard admits the department and its officers see their share of the ugly side of life, there are success stories too. "If we get back to the very basics of caring," he said, "we would have the country we used to." As an example, he said, "A neighbor told me about a kid he knew and felt he was going down a bad road. It was just a feeling he told me. The kid was into heroin, the neighbor didn't feel it was his place to step up and say anything and the kid died. He had to deal with the fact that this kid was dead. He knew it wasn't his fault but he felt he should have reached out to him and he didn't. It is our duty as a community to reach out to others. "Much of what we do is law enforcement at the sheriff's department," he said, "but there is a significant portion where the duties we have have nothing to do with law enforcement. We do programs for kids, programs for the elderly and victim-based programs. Just things giving us the opportunity to feel good and reach out to help in our communities." He noted the department has a special relationship with a group at Christie Lane. "We go out and have pizza with them and sometimes they come here and have pizza with us. It is a good thing," he said, "because you can't be around them and not be happy. "We all need to look for ways to keep picking each other up." Nodding his head he said, "It may seem a bit odd for the sheriff to say, but I do believe that. If you see somebody you are worried about, at least call somebody and tell them. "I think we can effect change by faith," he stated. The ongoing drug problem in the county is heroin, according to sheriff's department detective Josh Querin. "It is the number one problem in this county. We have had several heroin related deaths in the last few weeks." The problem with putting heroin junkies (addicts) in jail, Howard said, "Is they go in a junkie and when they come out they are still a junkie." He said addicts commit crimes for drugs, go to jail or prison and come out and commit more crimes because they are still addicted. The Teen Challenge Program is one of the most effective for addressing drug addiction. It is a long-term, Christian based program and in spite of the name is not just for teens. Howard was asked if the program works. "It doesn't work for everyone," he said, "but there are a lot of success stories out there. It is one of the best programs available today." One of the things Howard said he did when he worked as a detective in major crimes when he was trying to get addicts to consider treatment was to show them a graduation photo of someone after completing the program compared to their booking photo. "The difference is the different between night and day," he said. Soberly he said pointing to a book of booking photos, "These are kids. They could be my kids or your kids, they are just kids who are addicted to drugs." Taking questions, Howard was asked if the sheriff's department has a psychiatrist available for their personnel. "We have crisis stress management teams available to us," Howard said. "It is a peer based counseling and we do have psychiatrists available." A club member questioned the use of narcan for drug overdoses. Narcan, Howard said, is sometimes referred to as 'liquid Jesus'. "There are some paramedics who have used it. I think all the paramedic squads have it and we are looking into it for the jail and the cars," he said. He added, "There is a lot of drawbacks to it but it does work." He related the story of a young man who overdosed on heroin. He was found by Howard and another deputy behind a series of apartments in Willard dead with no pulse. "He was gone and beginning to change color," said Howard. "The paramedics came and gave him a shot or narcan. And I am not exaggerating, in seconds, and I mean, a very few seconds, he stood up and started walking and talking. We explained what had happened and he told us he had not taken heroin. We told him he needed treatment and he told us we were not treating him for anything. He was mad because we took his high away from him and he walked away." The drug, according to Howard and Querin, "is very effective and we have seen it work." Another drug, he said that is being looked into is called bevitrol. "It neutralizes at the synapse level, the drug," Howard said. "Once the shot is given that person cannot get high on heroin. From our perspective, if you have a guy or girl who has committed crimes that have to with withdrawal from drugs, they have this drug and for 30 days they are not going to have withdrawal. So there is some benefit there as to reduction of crime. The problem there is, it costs $1,100 per shot. And that leads to whose responsibility it is to pay for it." Detective Querin said, heroin and prescription pills are the two most common problems in Huron County, hands down.