Police, deputies see more calls as a result of financial pressures piling up on people

PORT CLINTON It happened about a month ago. Officers from Ottawa County Sheriff's off
Sarah Weber
May 24, 2010



It happened about a month ago.

Officers from Ottawa County Sheriff's office arrived at a home where a man was having a breakdown. He had lost his job, his home was under foreclosure, and his wife had left him. He had been drinking, and his family was concerned he might harm himself.

Officers from the department's SWAT team defused the situation, but as they were packing up, a second call came in.

Another man was threatening suicide as the result of financial crisis.

Sheriff Bob Bratton said that night of back-to-back calls confirmed for him the poor economy was putting pressure on families.

"We're starting to see the unrest within the families," Bratton said. "And a lot of it is economy-related with job loss and foreclosure."

Bratton said he would not call the rash of finance-related situations a crime wave -- the number of domestic violence charges issued by deputies is actually lower this year than during the same time period last year. The nature of the situations does concern him, however.

"We served a foreclosure paper the other day, and the next day the family had a hell of a domestic," he said.

Deputies were contacted Tuesday by Silgan Plastics in Erie Township because a worker had threatened to bring an AK-47 or M-16 into the workplace.

Deputies later learned from managers that the company is undergoing staff reductions and changes in operations to stay competitive, and the man was upset he had been moved from a supervisory role.

"We're working with our guys in establishing some protocols on how to handle these situations," Bratton said. "One thing we have in Ottawa County is there is funding available ... There is a support system."

He said situations are usually the worst when one partner hides financial problems from the other.

"It's bad enough to have a deputy coming up to the door -- but (worse) to not know why," Bratton said.

He said whenever deputies find a situation where individuals or families are breaking down, they try to find them help from local agencies such as The Giving Tree. The Giving Tree serves people recovering from mental health and substance abuse problems.

Deputies on the SWAT team are also trained to deal with people who might be a a danger to themselves or others. Bratton said deputies in Toledo have been involved in situations where an individual commits suicide by pulling a weapon on the police.

"We're looking at getting a Taser after the first of the year," Bratton said.

He said even though the number of domestic violence charges for 2008 is lower than the previous year, the number of disorderly conduct charges -- sometimes used by deputies as an alternative to a domestic violence charge -- had increased by 21 to date from 2007. The number of temporary protection orders, often filed due to disputes, held steady at 75 for the year, while the number of thefts and burglaries decreased.

In other counties sheriff's office personnel were not ready to say the economy was pushing crime rates higher.

"We have a lot of problems with domestic issues, but for us to be able to say there has been an increase, it's just too early," said Erie County Sheriff Terry Lyons said.

He said when gas was $4 a gallon, there was a dramatic increase in the number of people driving away from the pump without paying. And, he said, the number of scrap thefts has increased, but it was hard to define a time frame.

He said scrap theft could be as much related to people looking for ways to support their drug habit as the result of a poor economy.

In Huron County, Maj. Greg Englund said there has been has been an increase in crimes in the county, but he was hesitant to attribute it to the economy.

"You know one of the key issues when domestics occur is because money is tight and disagreements grow out of that," Englund said. "But as far as actually saying it's directly related to the economy ..."

When asked if he thought the crimes would increase if economy worsens, he said, "It's hard to say. You hope things will turn around because it affects us all, and it effects all of the local agencies."