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Sheriff still targeting drugs

Criminal offenses countywide dipped slightly, but crime in most statistical categories remained steady in 2009, according to data released by the Butler County Sheriff’s office this week.

There were a total of 1,008 offenses in 2009 versus 1,037 in 2008. Theft decreased, but burglaries increased. Assaults were up some (163 in ’08 to 167 in ’09), but there were no homicides or kidnappings last year.

Sheriff Kenny Harden made drugs his top priority when it took office and said he was pleased with the progress his deputies have made in cracking down on the drug trade.

“Of course you’re never going to get rid of it all,” he said. “We still have a drug problem here in Butler County and we’re going to still make it one of our top priorities.”

Harden said he believed the presence of drugs in the county initiates other criminal activity, most notably thefts.

He said one way to combat burglaries and thefts is keeping deputies on the road patrolling the county.

“I credit our deputies for being on the road,” said Harden. “Riding the rural areas…being seen. I’ve had people call me up and tell me they’re not afraid to sit out on their front porch anymore.”

Harden said the state’s recession hasn’t led to a spike in thefts or burglaries, although the two crimes remain a problem.

“Other sheriffs I’ve spoken too have seen an increase in those crimes,” he said. “Earlier in 2009 when metal prices were high, we did see people stealing scrap metal, but that’s fallen off.”

There were two sexual assaults in 2009, (both against juveniles), compared to three in 2008. The bulk of the county’s assault cases were domestic violence-related, said Harden.

“That’s a crime you really can’t prevent because you’re dealing with people in the same family,” he said. “It’s a bad crime, and one that affects both white and black.”