HURRICANE – The city is experiencing a rise in drug-related crimes, the Hurricane City Council heard at a regular council meeting Thursday night.
“I want you to know our drug cases are going up, skyrocketing beyond means,” Hurricane Police Chief Lynn Excell told the council, adding he believes the increase is caused by the Justice Reinvestment Initiative which was passed in 2015 by the Utah Legislature.
The law was designed to help nonviolent offenders to become law-abiding members of their communities and includes opportunities for parolees and probationers to reduce their time on supervised release, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. Under the reforms, some drug-possession convictions have been downgraded to misdemeanors.
“What they’re doing is, drug cases are not going to prison anymore,” Excell said. “They’re not doing anything with them.”
The Utah State Prison population is down by 500 and jails are being forced to release drug offenders.
“But there’s no treatment centers for them,” Excell said, “(Adult Parole and Probation) is not tracking them, and they’re going out and committing crimes.”
“Every community and every county is seeing a spike in crime,” Excell said. “Everything they thought this was allegedly going to do is not working.”
Excell also told the council he is looking to upgrade the department’s Spillman software that would help reduce crime.
“It gives us some ability to go out and look at our community, that we can determine where crimes are being committed faster,” Excell said. “We can change the direction that police officers respond or patrol. It gives us the ability to work closer with neighborhoods and address problems easier.”
Supervisors will be able to track crime and accidents on a daily basis rather than waiting until the end of the year and make assignments accordingly. Excell can also give the mayor and city manager access to the data.
“The mayor’s challenged me with one of the goals; two years ago we were the 14th safest city, last year we went to the 17th safest city, and he wants me to get that lowered down,” Excell said.
The cost of the upgrade is $31,ooo, which, Excell said, can be paid for with surplus money in the department’s budget.
A more expensive version of the software would allow law enforcement statistics to be accessed through the city’s website. Excell is seeking businesses to help sponsor the project.
The council heard from two upset citizens, Scott and Debra Johnson, who live across the street from one of the city pickleball courts. The courts are open from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m., and the Johnsons say the noise is driving them crazy and depriving them of sleep.
“I work 10 hours a day,” Scott Johnson said, “and I don’t get six hours of sleep because of the pickleball courts.”
The court lighting is not a problem, Scott Johnson said, just the noise.
“You can hear every paddle stroke,” he said.
The Johnsons have lived in their home nearly 20 years, and the pickleball courts used to be tennis courts.
“It’s that bop, bop, bop, and there’s six courts and so it just amplifies. There is no sound deadening, it echoes, you can hear it in our back yard, you can hear it in the front yard.”
The noise is not helping Debra Johnson’s high blood pressure.
“It really affects our health,” she said.
Several options were discussed including changing the hours of the courts and moving late night play to other courts.
In the end, Mayor John Bramall committed to investigating the problem and doing something about it, most likely shutting down the courts at 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
After a public hearing at which no one spoke, the City Council passed a new budget for fiscal year 2016-2017 and amended the current budget.
The council also voted to award the Hurricane Valley Wrestling Club $3,000 to help with expenses, particularly those involved in traveling to Fargo, North Dakota, for a national competition. The wrestling club is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization started in 2014 and does not charge a fee for participants.
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