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Sheriff Craft says fight club is active in Marion County

Staff writer

Marion County Sheriff Robert Craft gave a report Friday at the Interagency meeting in Hillsboro about law enforcement trends in Marion County.

He reported Marion County has an active fight club that includes individuals from the Marion, Hillsboro, and Goessel areas.

He said juvenile club members make appointments to meet in out-of-the-way places to engage in fist fights.

Fight clubs have become common throughout the country since the book and 1999 movie “Fight Club” became a cult classic. Some fights have been videotaped and posted on YouTube and other Web sites.

Craft is concerned about the practice because it can lead to other things in adulthood.

Craft said person-to-person crimes are decreasing in the county. Based on historical statistics, he expects burglaries to increase because of the slower economy and increase in unemployment. He said such crimes in this area historically lag behind the east and west coasts by six to eight months.

Craft is in his first year of office as sheriff. He said his department has changed its method of reporting cases. About 337 incidences, in general, have been reported so far this year, an increase from the previous year.

According to Craft, the biggest issue among juveniles in the county right now is that of sex crimes, including consensual or nonconsensual sex and child sex abuse. Four cases are being investigated at this time, Craft said.

He said a 2007-08 survey of high school students revealed that 32 percent reported some type of violence against them on school properties.

He also noted two-thirds of violent crimes involve alcohol. His department hopes to provide more drug and alcohol abuse prevention programs for schools.

Craft said SRS and the sheriff’s department work closely together.

Parents As Teachers instructor Lori Soohoo asked Craft the proper protocol to follow when suspicions of drug use arise.

“Who should we report it to?” she asked.

Craft said it should be reported to the sheriff’s department, which will investigate and determine whether SRS needs to be contacted.

Craft said methamphetamine production has come down but still is prevalent in the county. Ingredients are easily available, and the method of production has changed, he said, making it harder to detect.

He said the new method allows the cooking process to be done in a less visible place and with less odor.

There no longer are coolers along the side of the road, he said. Now, they use two-liter plastic bottles.

“Meth is the worst drug we have to deal with,” Craft said. “It is addictive, changes the thought process, and affects the body.”

He said the department is working on several narcotics cases and recently got a distributor off the streets.

The Sheriff’s Department has a staff of seven — a sheriff, undersheriff, and five deputies.

When asked if the department has an investigator, Craft said, “We all are investigators.”

He noted each one of his officers seems to have a niche wherein he excels, and cases are assigned to them on that basis.

He said his department is trying to come up with savings in its budget for hiring a trained investigative officer.

Representative Bob Brookens was at the meeting. He praised the sheriff’s department for being responsive to calls from his lawyer’s office.

“The sheriff’s office takes every call seriously,” he said.

As a state representative, Brookens forewarned the 30 social service workers in attendance that deep cuts in spending are likely in next year’s budget. Legislative leaders don’t want to raise taxes, he said.

By consensus, Robert Carlton was re-appointed as chairman and Debbie Darrow as secretary of Marion County Interagency for 2009-10.

Linda Ogden, executive director of Marion County Communities in Schools, said Interagency has run out of funds for emergency financial aid.

Natalie Hett of Prairie View reported $2,800 are available in Flex Funds for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Assistance is limited to one time per year per family.

The next interagency meeting will be Nov. 13 at Marion Pizza Hut. Representatives of the Eighth Judicial District Community Corrections Department will make a presentation. Also, Brookens will give a more detailed analysis of the financial crisis facing the state.

Last modified Sept. 16, 2009

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