Patrols ramp up as break-ins rise in rural areas of county

By Pat Caldwell
Malheur Enterprise

VALE – The illegal narcotic trade is probably at the root of a recent spate of burglaries in rural Nyssa, a situation that prompted the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office to beef up its patrols in the area.

“We have a lot of burglaries right now. Many of those burglaries are related to controlled substances and drugs,” Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe said.

The burglaries – and their probable ties to illegal drugs – reflect a nationwide trend in the war on illegal narcotics, a conflict that has already cost the nation $1 trillion since the early 1970s.

Wolfe said the secluded nature of many of the places that are burglarized can hamper efforts to catch the culprits.

“They are hitting farm shops and places they know may not be occupied. In rural Nyssa you (usually) have a couple of incidents, and now you have three or four a week,” he said.

The burglary trend throughout the county – and in Nyssa – showed a boost between 2014 and 2015. For example, in 2014-15 the sheriff’s office recorded 55 burglaries in the county. In 2015, that rate climbed to 103. In Nyssa, the burglary rate jumped from 11 reported in 2014 to 21 in 2015.

Wolfe said one method to stop the rise in burglaries is a simple one.

“Try to increase patrols in the area,” he said.

Another advantage, he said, is when the people who live in the area are good observers.

“Fortunately out that way the locals have very good about calling when they see suspicious activity,” he said.

Shifts in the drug trade also show in other ways. For example, the number of incarcerated women in the U.S. and locally has escalated in recent years.

Wolfe attributes that rise to the use of illegal narcotics.

“Meth and heroin are the main reasons we have an increase in female inmates throughout the country,” Wolfe said.

According to data from the non-profit Prison Policy Initiative, the growth in the incarceration of females nearly tripled between 1980 and 1990 in the U.S. Recently, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, the incarceration rate for females is more than eight times higher than it was throughout the 20th Century.

The American Civil Liberties Union also sees a link to the war on drugs, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. During the past 20 years, ACLU statistics show, 40 percent of criminal convictions leading to incarceration of females were for illegal narcotics crimes.

The Malheur County Jail is not immune to the shift, Wolfe said.

“Locally, our females (in the jail) are almost always close to maximum capacity,” he said.

The jail was constructed, Wolfe said, with dedicated space for female inmates.

The jail was designed to furnish 15 “beds” for female inmates. Now, there are 13 women in custody at the jail.

“When the jail was built, 10 percent was dedicated to female housing,” he said. “Now it needs to be 25 to 30 percent.”