HAYDEN, Idaho — Kootenai County Sheriff Robert Norris says the City of Hayden needs to invest in more deputies.
The sheriff brought these concerns to a town hall meeting Wednesday night and made it clear that the current law enforcement situation in Hayden is not sustainable. Right now, there are only three full-time deputies assigned to patrol the city. That is roughly one per shift.
Norris said the lack of deputies is putting citizens and law enforcement in an unsafe position.
When there is a serious emergency in Hayden, Kootenai County deputies are pulled from all corners of the county to assist. That was the case on Feb. 6 when a man barricaded himself inside a house and lit it on fire. A SWAT standoff lasted for several hours.
"This was not a good person that decided to come live in the city of Hayden," Sheriff Norris said during the meeting.
The influx of newcomers in Hayden has led to a growing number of 911 calls for service in the area.
"It's truly call to call," Deputy Tanner Cox said. "I remember a whole month I didn't even make a traffic stop. I was just so busy going call to call."
Cox is one of just three full-time deputies assigned to Hayden and the only one during his shift. Most days, there's not much time to follow up on shop lifting cases or patrol for DUIs and backup is not always so close.
"I have to wait for a county deputy to come, which could be coming from Stateline, Athol, Worley, even Harrison," Cox said. "So, it could be anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes."
Sheriff Norris says the City of Hayden spends just 6% of its budget on law enforcement. Other towns, such as Rathdrum, Post Falls and Coeur d'Alene, spend anywhere from 20% to 40%.
Hayden has roughly one deputy for every 5,000 residents.
"I mean, we've created an unsafe situation not only for those of us that live here, but those that are protecting us," Hayden resident John Zorn said.
Those facts were presented at Wednesday's town hall meeting. Sheriff Norris believes the city needs to invest at least $1.8 million to have 24 full-time deputies. Residents have failed to pass two public safety levies in recent years.
"I think we're doing a better job of getting out and educating the public on how bad the city of Hayden truly has it and how better their law enforcement services could be if they allocate the funds for it," Cox said. "So, hopefully we'll get one passed but ultimately that's going to be up to the city of Hayden residents to actually stand up and vote for approval on that."