Annual report: Ottawa County arrests up slightly

Becky Vargo • Jun 1, 2018 at 1:00 PM

Sexual assault and general assault cases are on the rise in Ottawa County, according to an annual report released recently by the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office.

Total calls for service have increased, and arrests — both adult and juvenile — have also increased.

“Some top concerns are mental health incidents, opioid and other drug-related incidents, crimes against children, domestic-related crimes, assaults, and other fraudulent activity,” Sheriff Steve Kempker said. “As we continue to see growth in Ottawa County, comes the fact that law enforcement services will be called upon more often.”

There were two murders in Ottawa County in 2017 — both solved — as compared to three in 2016 and none in 2015. Kempker said the two murders last year, as well as two murders this year, all involved some tie between the victim and the offender.

“They are not random acts,” he said.

Reported criminal sexual assault cases were at 146 for 2017, up from 125 in 2016 and 128 in 2015. Kempker said part of the reason for an increase in the assault cases — especially against children — is the increased education and the programs such as OK2Say, so more of the crimes are actually being reported.

The sheriff noted that the Children’s Advocacy Center saw a 46 percent increase in interviewing cases for child abuse and criminal sexual assault against children last year.

“They’re on track for the same in 2018,” he said.

Other crimes:

— Burglary cases were up by four from the 492 in 2016.

— There were 13 kidnapping incidents reported, 1,511 assault cases, and 137 forgery and counterfeiting cases.

— Detectives investigated 57 embezzlement cases, down from the previous year’s 65.

— Deputies made 568 drunken driving arrests, as compared to 535 in 2016 and 523 in 2015.

— Drug and narcotic violations were up to 1,244 in 2017, compared to 1,044 cases in 2016 and 900 in 2015.

The opioid problem continues to be a big concern and “we’re working that area hard,” Kempker said. 

“Mental health — that’s a daily call for us,” the sheriff said.

Some people committing crimes are experiencing mental health issues, Kempker said. That means they need mental health treatment and some need special housing. Ottawa County is emphasizing mental health diversion programs, he added.

In the Tri-Cities area, the following arrest numbers were reported, with the first number being adults and the second number being juveniles:

Crockery Township: 128, eight; Ferrysburg: 188, six; Grand Haven: 314, 32; Robinson Township: 84, nine; Spring Lake Township: 154, 16; and Spring Lake Village: 230, four.

Sheriff’s deputies investigated 6,917 crashes in Ottawa County last year, the majority of them being property damage only.

There were 17 fatal crashes with 17 people killed in 2017, compared to 27 people killed in 24 crashes in 2016.

“Eight years ago, we averaged 32-34 fatals a year,” Kempker said.

Alcohol was a factor in five of the 2017 crashes and in eight of the 2016 crashes.

The sheriff noted that increased education, enforcement and engineering were contributing to the decrease in the number of fatal crashes in the county.

“The message is getting driven home with the drunk driving,” he said.

Animal control officers picked up 1,586 animals last year, which is the same number as in 2016 and almost 70 lower than in 2015.

Marine patrol officers logged 4,695 hours, compared to 2,416 in 2016. They patrolled 26 boat accidents, compared to 24 in 2016 and 10 in 2015.

The average daily population of the Ottawa County Jail in 2017 was 297 inmates, compared to 286 in 2016 and 301 in 2015. The total admissions for 2017 were 6,525, up by 160 from the previous year. 

Kempker said the jail has 462 beds and the current population is about 370. Some of the beds are rented to house inmates from other counties at times, creating a source of income for Ottawa County.

Kempker said the Sheriff’s Office is likely to grow a little as communities contract for additional deputies. One was recently added in Allendale. Another will be added soon in Jamestown Township.

“Our goal is to provide a safe and secure environment for our residents,” Kempker said. “We’re looking forward to another good year.”

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