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From the Desk of Nick Hunter

Written by Nick Hunter, Sheriff on May. 20th, 2024
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On June 30, 2023, I was unanimously appointed by the Marion County Board of Commissioners to be the 41st Sheriff of Marion County.  It is an honor to serve as your Sheriff and address our community needs through communication, active listening, responsivity, and focusing on identifying the root of problems as opposed to reacting to the symptoms.  

Through many conversations, meetings, town halls and data review, a resounding theme emerges centered around the simple term of livability within our communities.  The main contributor to the livability of our residents, businesses, and visitors, can be found in the tangible and visible addiction crisis.  The addiction crisis is fueling several low-level nuisance crimes including theft and trespass.  

Marion County residents should feel safe in their homes, safe in their neighborhoods, and safe in their businesses.  This safety is jeopardized when we don’t feel confident and secure walking down the street, leave our possessions unattended, or we are constantly watching everyone that walks through the door of our business.

To address these issues, we are focusing on data driven approaches to shape our response.  Data provides information to communicate and target the root of the problem instead of continually being reactive to the symptoms.  The addiction crisis and subsequent theft/nuisance crimes are a top priority of the Sheriff’s Office    

Marion County operates the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program to focus on treatment over incarceration for those committing low level crimes fueled by addiction.  This allows for targeting the root of the problem as opposed to placing someone in jail for a short period of time, while not addressing the circumstances or the factors driving the associated criminal activity.   

Marion County is leading the state and nation with this model, and I personally testified in the last legislative session which resulted in the passage of House Bill 4002 and the re-criminalization of drug possession.  Re-criminalization of small amounts of illicit drugs is not intended to arrest and place more people into our overburdened jail, but instead intended to provide law enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office with necessary tools to achieve accountability which was lost with the passage of Ballot Measure 110.  

Through re-criminalization and accountability, we can directly focus on livability issues created because of the addiction crisis.  We are committed to the necessary concept of stabilization which includes getting our severely addicted population off the streets, into treatment, with the goal/outcome of behavioral change.  Through behavioral change we are directly addressing the livability of the individual which directly impacts the livability of the community, businesses, parks, and other spaces.

Addressing the addiction crisis through treatment should not be confused with those coming to or operating in Marion County to take advantage of the vulnerable and addicted population.  If you are manufacturing, delivering, or selling drugs in Marion County, you belong in prison and that is where, in conjunction with the District Attorney’s Office, we will send you.  Through House Bill 4002 we received a fix to charging deliveries which was lost in 2021 allowing dealers to prey upon our communities without necessary accountability or consequence.  The consequence has been immediately reinstated and we will leverage this to prosecute those responsible. 

Addressing the addiction crisis through accountability is a priority to the Sheriff’s Office as this directly contributes to our feelings of safety and security, which directly impacts our overall livability as a community.  Change does not occur without action, and this requires intentional commitment to focusing on the root of the problem.  As your Sheriff, I am committed to this action and continual development and review of strategies to ensure we are efficiently and effectively addressing criminal activity while contributing to public safety for all Marion County residents.

Nick Hunter, Sheriff

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