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Archive for Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Sheriff says task challenging, time-consuming

November 26, 2002

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Any given day, Douglas County Sheriff Rick TrappâÂÂs office has as many as 3,000 felony and misdemeanor warrants waiting to be served.

âÂÂWe serve them as fast as we can,â Trapp said. âÂÂIâÂÂm guessing we close out seven to 10 a day, and we probably get in another 40 to 50 a week. They stay pretty busy.âÂÂ

While 3,000 warrants sounds like a lot, law enforcement experts say itâÂÂs a typical number.

âÂÂFor a county the size of Douglas County, 3,000 warrants is well within the ballpark of whatâÂÂs to be expected,â said Michael Birzer, a professor of criminal justice at Washburn University who spent 18 years with the Sedgwick County SheriffâÂÂs Department.

The number of outstanding warrants came to light earlier this month, after a Journal-World review of police and court records found the 19-year-old man accused in the shooting of a woman on the cityâÂÂs east side had been wanted.

That review revealed Antonio Floyd had repeated brushes with the law that would indicate dangerous tendencies. But officials in separate jurisdictions apparently were unable to piece together a chronology of FloydâÂÂs activities during the past year in a meaningful enough way to keep him behind bars.

Then, in October, charges were filed in Douglas County in connection with an incident that occurred in July. A warrant was issued.

And it went into the stack of other warrants TrappâÂÂs deputies had to serve.

Time-consuming work

Usually, warrants go unserved because their subjects know theyâÂÂre wanted and leave the area.

âÂÂItâÂÂs a lot more complicated than just picking up a warrant and driving out to where somebody lives and bringing them in,â Trapp said. âÂÂSometimes you might have an address, but a lot of times itâÂÂs not any good. It can be very time-consuming.âÂÂ

Trapp said he had âÂÂa couple deputiesâ who spent most of their time chasing warrants. The department also contracts with two civilians to serve warrants.

âÂÂOthers help out at different times,â he said.

Because the numbers change daily, Trapp said the department didnâÂÂt keep a running count of how many of the warrants involve felonies and how many involve misdemeanors.

âÂÂItâÂÂs probably 30 percent felonies, 70 percent misdemeanors,â Trapp said. Most of the felons, he said, are those whoâÂÂve been arrested once, posted bond and taken off.

âÂÂIf we have reason to believe theyâÂÂre in the area, weâÂÂre looking for them,â Trapp said. âÂÂBut, again, youâÂÂre talking about people who move around a lot.âÂÂ

Trapp said many of the backlogged warrants were for accused perpetrators of domestic violence.

To reduce the number, Trapp said he was considering:

⢠Organizing an âÂÂamnesty day,â when anyone wanted for a misdemeanor - bad check writers, mostly - could turn themselves in, make arrangements to pay off their debts and not go to jail.

⢠Doing more one-day âÂÂblitzes,â when deputies serve several low-level misdemeanor warrants - unpaid speeding tickets, for example - to remind the public of the need to heed traffic citations.

âÂÂWeâÂÂve done three or four since IâÂÂve been in office,â said Trapp, a former prosecutor who was elected sheriff in 2000.

⢠Asking the Douglas County Commission to let him hire one or two more deputies to work on warrants.

But Trapp said he wouldnâÂÂt take on any new initiatives until after January.

âÂÂWhen I came on, we were 10 to 12 officers short,â he said. âÂÂBut in January, for the first time, weâÂÂll be almost fully staffed - weâÂÂll be down only three positions.âÂÂ

Trapp said he would wait to see how the newly filled positions affected the departmentâÂÂs operations before deciding whether to put more resources into serving warrants.

âÂÂThere are a lot of needs to be met,â he said.

Seeing success

The Shawnee County SheriffâÂÂs Office on Nov. 19 offered an amnesty day.

âÂÂWe thought it would a huge success if we got rid of 200 warrants,â Lt. Lance Royer said. âÂÂWe ended up getting rid of exactly 505. So it was a huge, huge success.âÂÂ

On Monday, Shawnee County had 5,797 active warrants, or about 3.4 per thousand residents, compared with about 3 per thousand in Douglas County.

Before the amnesty day, Royer said, the sheriffâÂÂs office sent postcards to 2,500 people wanted on âÂÂcollection warrantsâ - those issued to writers of bad checks or people who fail to pay debts - letting them know they could settle their debt without running the risk of being taken to jail.

âÂÂJust about everybody who came in met with the attorneys who were there and agreed on some kind of payment plan,â Royer said. âÂÂSome of them paid up in full.âÂÂ

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