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story.lead_photo.caption Moniteau County Sheriff Tony Wheatley Photo by David Wilson / California Democrat.

Crime rates in Moniteau County have decreased even more from last year as deputies maintain their office's zero tolerance drug policy. Moniteau County Sheriff Tony Wheatley said his office's big project for 2020 is working with the county commission to set a budget.

"Starting in 2018, we ramped up the patrol and jail divisions to get a handle on the crime issues we were having at the time," Wheatley said. "This increase in patrol staff was way overdue as we only had one patrol deputy per shift to cover the entire county with no protection after 3 a.m. when I took office."

Wheatley said there are now two deputies per shift to "cover the 419 square miles of the county" with round-the-clock coverage.

"Looking at county revenues, it will be very hard to keep this level of protection without the aid of a sales tax to help support the department," he said. "The county commission is currently looking into a sales tax package to aid in funding county law enforcement and road and bridge jointly."

Without this tax, Wheatley said, the county will see difficult times within the department and possible staff cuts and services that may need to be put on the back burner.

"There is absolutely no way that I will cut back the road patrol to only one deputy on per shift due to the dangers that it poses to the deputies," Wheatley said. "In this day and age, we cannot expect to place a deputy out there by himself with no other backup to rely on."

In 2019, the employees included six full-time road deputies and the sheriff, two detectives, three court security/civil process officers, three part-time/reserve road deputies, 10 full-time civilian jail staff, five part-time civilian jail staff, two part-time transport staff, one administrative assistant and one jail administrator.

Calls for service dropped significantly to 8,522, compared to 2018 when there were 9,854 calls.

Total arrests in 2019 were 244, down 62 from last year. They include 103 felony drug arrests (down 10); 38 misdemeanor drug arrests (down 22); 39 arrests on warrants (down 14); 26 other felony arrests (down 15) and 38 misdemeanor arrests (down one).

Cases include zero homicides, yet two cold cases were solved and charged; 233 suspicious activity investigations (down 139); 11 vehicle pursuits (down three); 61 alarm calls (down 11); 194 animal complaints (down seven); 92 domestic calls (down 29); five felony assaults (down 14); six misdemeanor assaults (down two); 184 assists from outside agencies including the Department of Family Services/other sheriff's offices and the local police department (down 29); 44 cases of trespassing (up seven); 142 stranded motorists; 18 missing persons/juveniles; 95 motor vehicle crashes; 22 peace disturbances; 94 pedestrian checks; 298 prisoner transports; 869 paper services; and 131 public assists.

With such a decrease in calls and cases, Wheatley extends the credit to the members of Moniteau County's public.

"I believe over the last three years, we as a department have made the county a better place to live and work," he said. "We owe a large part of this to the citizens of Moniteau County who give us the support and encouragement we need to get the job done.

"I wish to thank all of the citizens of the county for their support and want them to know that we will be there in their time of need," Wheatley said.

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