HURON — Huron Police Chief Kevin VanDiepen was the keynote speaker at the monthly luncheon Thursday for the Beadle County Republican Women at the Hangar.
VanDiepen opened with a short address regarding the current challenges in the city for his department and then took questions from those present.
He addressed what he sees as the largest challenge in the city right now, which is drugs. He noted that much of his department’s time is spent on offenses that relate back to drugs.
“You have use, of course, but then you also get all of the extra things that go along with it,” VanDiepen explained.
“We had recent issues with car thefts, and most of that was related to drugs. Most of the violent offenses that we see are also drug-related.”
The drug of choice in the community is methamphetamine, though VanDiepen expressed that the struggle to put away users once caught really does make it difficult to stem the tide of the drug in Huron. He stated that recent legislation that pushed for presumptive probation has allowed for users and distributers to return back to the street multiple times before facing “real time.”
VanDiepen discussed the department’s current staffing, stating that he is still two officers short, although that’s due to a lack of interested applicants, not any budgetary or other constraints on the department. He expressed that one thing he would like to do that is limited by finances is adding a full-time officer to the middle school, but the roughly $100,000 price tag to do that has led to the department seeking federal grant programs to fund the position, and those grants have not come through for the department at this point.
The chief addressed a number of specific questions in the audience, including the amount of window tint that is allowable and recent movements to defund police nationally. He did address concerns about some that “small infractions” are occupying too much officers’ time.
“Those small infractions are how big-time people have been caught over the years,” VanDiepen stated. “If you don’t want to be pulled over for a tail light being out, fix your tail light. Otherwise, it can be a safety thing that could lead to someone rear-ending you and fatalities down the road.”