Sheriff: Arrests increased in 2022; OWI incidents, aggravated assaults were up
PLYMOUTH CO. — Arrests by county officers increased in 2023, according to Plymouth County Sheriff Jeff Te Brink.
There was a 7.39 percent increase in arrests, Te Brink told the Le Mars Sentinel. Arrests include on-site arrests, warrant arrests and mittimus cases, in which a person is taken to a jail to serve a sentence, he said.
He said his department made 930 arrests in 2022, up from 866 arrests in 2021. There were 5,763 E911 calls, and 5,827 complaints handled by the sheriff’s office, Te Brink told the Plymouth County Board of Supervisors in a report on Tuesday, Jan. 10. That is 811 fewer complaints than in 2021.
Supervisors Chairman Don Kass wondered if the pandemic was part of the reason for more complaints in 2021. People were wound up in 2020-21 as they dealt with the stress of the Covid-19 epidemic, Kass said.
Te Brink said OWI arrests were up for drivers under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Drivers were cited for using methamphetamine, marijuana, opioids and other drugs, he said.
The sheriff said he sees no difference between a person abusing alcohol or drugs while driving.
“They’re both equally dangerous,” Te Brink said.
He said drunken drivers who were stopped had blood-alcohol levels of .08, or right at the lowest limit for impairment. Others had much higher levels of intoxication, up to .25.
Alcohol use and driving remain a dangerous mix. According to a study from Safer America, which compiles consumer safety information, 30 percent of fatal crashes in Iowa in 2019, the most recent year in which complete statistics were available, involved alcohol use. Between 2009-18, there were 916 deaths in the state linked to drinking and driving.
A 2022 report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism said deaths involving alcohol jumped 25.5 percent between 2019 to 2020. In 2020, alcohol sales nationally increased 2.9 percent, a marked change from a 50-year pattern of declining sales.
“The increase in alcohol-related deaths appears to reflect a widespread increase in alcohol consumption and related harms,” the NIAAA report stated. “For example, research suggests that increased alcohol consumption during the pandemic has been associated with negative health outcomes such as increases in transplants for alcohol-associated liver disease, emergency department visits for alcohol withdrawal, and the percentage of emergency department visits that involved acute alcohol consumption. Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported a 14% increase in alcohol-related traffic fatalities in 2020 after decades of general decline.”
There were a total of 338 total traffic fatalities in Iowa in 2022, based on a report from the Iowa Department of Transportation using data through Dec. 30. That number may increase in the coming months, according to Dennis Kleen of the Iowa DOT. Not all reports are final yet, he said.
In Plymouth County, there were four fatal crashes in 2022, according to the state DOT. There were three in the county in 2021, according to state records.
Some violent crime was up as well in the county, the sheriff said, with a rise in aggravated assault. But there were fewer cases of simple assault, Te Brink said. There also was a decline in criminal mischief cases, with fewer damaged mailboxes at rural addresses.
Is there any conclusion to be reached from this data? The sheriff didn’t have an answer, he said.
“Can’t explain it,” Te Brink told the supervisors.
He also provided fourth-quarter statistics to the board, and reported that there is now a full complement of jailers. The Plymouth County Sheriff’s Office has 13 sworn officers, including Sheriff Te Brink and 12 deputies.