Backus residents were given the opportunity to get to know members of the Cass County Sheriff’s Department for the first time since the beginning of this year’s contract with the law enforcement agency.
The community was invited to city hall for a community outreach meeting Thursday, Jan. 16. Though the cold seemed to keep many away, Sheriff Tom Burch and Cass County deputies discussed various topics with those present. The discussion focused especially on electronic scams, local thefts and drug trends.
Burch warned that electronic scams are on the rise, and they are targeting local elderly populations.
“We have a lot of elderly people and they are preyed on by scammers. It’s a tough one to break,” Burch said.
Burch said most scams originate from outside of the country, limiting what local law enforcement can do. Burch had recommendations for prevention, including that people watch their accounts closely and report even small abnormalities immediately. Burch said his department has services to inform and educate people on scams.
The Cass County Sheriff’s Department hosts presentations on fraud prevention and has an alert system called Nixle, which can alert people to scams, Amber Alerts and emergency weather warnings. Burch also recommended that people be skeptical of texts asking for account information or prize winnings.
“If you didn’t go down to the Corner Store and buy a lottery ticket, you didn’t win. Just forget it,” Burch said.
Burch warned people to be aware of a new tax return scam.
On the subject of thefts, Burch warned that there have been many thefts and burglaries in the area. One recently busted group of thieves had more than $100,000 worth of stolen goods.
Burch recommended that people be cautious, keep garage doors closed and doors locked. He also recommended that people keep an eye out for their neighbors and report anything suspicious.
“A few years ago we had a guy going around with flyers for a lost dog. He didn’t even own a dog. That was his reason to go around to houses and knock on doors and see if anyone was home. If nobody was home he would burglarize the garage,” said Cass County Investigator John Murray.
Another way to protect yourself from theft is to clearly label your valuables and record serial numbers for electronics and especially firearms. Keep your list of serial numbers in a safe deposit box or some other safe location.
Burch warned that burglars have been stealing small numbers of items from many homes in order to hide their thefts.
In addition to preventing theft, Burch said that community reports of suspicious activities were at least partially responsible for a decline in meth houses in the area combined with the increased control over medicines used to make amphetamines.
“It sounds like 15 years ago it was a much bigger problem in our area. You heard about it, now you don’t. Has it slowed down from 15 years ago?” asked Blair Ecker.
Burch said most of the amphetamines within the county are being imported, though amphetamines are becoming less popular. He also said that heroin and cocaine have seen a resurgence of popularity in certain parts of the county. Synthetic marijuana, bath salts and prescription drugs are even more popular.
In addition to vigilance, Burch said community members can reduce drug use simply by turning in unused medication.
“Most of it is Mom or Dad passed away or a spouse that was sick for a while, so they had a bottle of meds and they just didn’t know where to go with it. It’s been a good program,” Burch said.
The sheriff’s department has a program called Take it to the Box for the safe disposal of prescription medication. Twice a year the prescription medications are sent for disposal. The department’s most recent prescription medicine disposal was 285 pounds of prescription medicine.
The Cass County Sheriff’s Department holds meetings once a month in one of its contracted communities to get to know the people of those communities.
“If you come and visit with us and you take the time to get to know us, I think you’re more likely to come up to us and say, ‘Tom or Erik, this just didn’t look right.’” Burch said. “If you get to know the guys that are working in your community, I think that flow of communication will go better.”
The city of Backus formerly contracted with the Pine River Police Department but decided to try a one year contract with Cass County for police coverage. This contract started Jan. 1 of 2014.
Travis Grimler can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Facebook.