Crime, probation cases on the rise in York County

YORK – Crime and subsequent probation cases are on the rise in York County.

That was the clear sentiment this week as the county commissioners met with District 5 probation representatives and heard comments from the York County Attorney’s office.

Carrie Rodriguez, chief officer of District 5 Probation, was present to make her annual report and budget request for the new fiscal year.

District 5 Probation serves York, Boone, Colfax, Hamilton, Merrick, Nance, Platte, Polk, Saunders and Seward Counties. Rodriguez says York has the second most probationers of all the counties, with Platte County having the most.

In 2022, 566 people were on probation in York County. That compares to 506 in 2021, 318 in 2020, 361 in 2019, 299 in 2018 and 290 in 2017. The majority of people served are adults. There were 511 adults served in 2022, 55 were juveniles.

Of the adults, 73% were male. Of the juveniles, 82% were male.

Commissioner Woody Ziegler asked why there has been such an increase in the need for probation services in the county.

“There is no one reason to pinpoint, there are many factors,” Rodriguez said. “With more officers now on staff (compared to past years when there was a hiring issue) and on the street, you will see more arrests and tickets. The county attorneys and the judges also have a role. There is a lot in play with how people come to us.”

Deputy York County Attorney Christopher Johnson noted there was a major renovation of the state justice system in 2015. “The justice system realized the prisons were at 200% and higher capacity. In 2015, probation was mandated as a preferential avenue for Class 3A felonies and below. That was renovated in 2019, 2021 and 2023. The big shift was the where had been the presumption of prison for felonies, now the presumption is for probation. And there is the rise in cases in general.”

York County Attorney Gary Olson said he feels some of the increase might have to do “with a rebound of people who had been in isolation due to COVID.”

“The case numbers have really spiked and York County is seeing drastically rising crime rates,” Johnson said. “My personal opinion is that people forgot how to be human during COVID. That’s just my personal opinion.”

“And the city of York is more on pace of 20,000 people rather than 8,000 people” due to the influx of individuals traveling through and staying here because of York’s location, Olson added.

Probation offers a wide variety of services to those who have been placed with them by the court system. Those include relapse groups, a crime victim group, support groups, anger management sessions, money management classes, trauma resolution groups, behavior change interventions, dialectical behavior therapy, employment services, pre-treatment groups, moral reconation therapy, parents’ groups and batterers’ intervention programs.

Rodriguez referred to a study conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln which showed individuals “who recidivated (re-offended) attended fewer classes during post-release supervision than did those who did not. The fewer the sessions attended, the higher is the likelihood of recidivism.”

Of the $126,073 spent on treating probationers in York County, the biggest amount of $69,840 was spent on transitional living, for people coming out of the prison system.

Rodriguez said the statewide recidivism rate for those on probation is 20% — the percentage in District 5 is 16%.

A valuable tool has become problem solving court services. York and Seward County share a problem solving court program, under the direction of District Judge James Stecker. Problem solving courts are for individuals who are facing a felony charge related to a substance abuse addition, who are at high risk to reoffend. The individuals participate in intensive treatment services, classes, stablized housing programs, they learn about pro-social support systems, gainful employment and they participate in home visits and drug testing multiple days a week. They are in the program for 18-36 months. At the end of that time period, if they meet all program requirements, their felony charge is dismissed. Rodriguez said problem solving courts are the “most effective form of intervention, with lower recidivism rates than traditional probation, jail or prison terms.”

Rodriguez said problem solving court clients, because of their long histories of substance abuse and their felony charges, more than likely would have been sentenced to prison if not for this program.

She added there are currently 22 people in the Seward/County problem solving court program with six pending acceptance. That number is expected to double in the near future as they are currently in the process of getting a second probation officer to serve this program.

“York and Seward Counties have such a need, we are getting a second officer,” Rodriguez said. “It is very much needed.”

She also added that five people just graduated last month and four more are coming up soon.

Rodriguez said the local graduation rate is 79% with a 78% success rate. “Most of these individuals have had substance abuse issues all their lives, so this is a very significant success rate.”

Drug testing is a big part of the probation system. In 2022, 4,278 drug tests were collected in York County alone. Rodriguez explained how probationers have to call in, every single morning, to see if they have to come into the office to test. They never know when they will be required to do so and they have one hour to physically report at the office for the testing, for maintain the integrity of the test samples and results.

Rodriguez said probation provides cost savings to the state and the county. Juvenile probation costs, per day, are $20.99. Adult probation costs for high-risk individuals are $4.51 a day. The problem solving court costs $7.85 a day.

Those costs compared to a cost of $105.83 a day for an adult in prison and $54.40 a day in a county jail (based on the average of jails in District 5).

Rodriguez told the York County Commissioners that if York County had to provide all these services, it would cost the county $934,344.93 a year. They are requesting a $33,288 payment from the county, which is also required (by state statute) to provide office space for the entity.

 

 

 

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