Packed In: Kootenai Co. sheriff says Hayden needs more deputies as city rapidly grows

HAYDEN, Idaho– Hayden is growing fast and that’s making it hard for law enforcement officers to keep the community safe.

On Wednesday, people from the North Idaho town packed into a room to learn more about the problems and what needs to be done.

Nearly 4,000 people have moved to Hayden in the past 10 years. The city saw a 30 percent growth in population in the last decade. Around 17,000 people now live there, drive on its roads and shop in town.

Sheriff Robert Norris says the Hayden area is staffed with the equivalent of three full-time deputies and one-part time deputy for Hayden’s 10-mile radius. The sheriff’s office contracts with the City of Hayden for patrol, so it can’t just hire more deputies for the area.

Norris says the national average for cities and law enforcement around is usually 1.6 officers per 1,000 people. That means Hayden should have 17 deputies for its population, Norris said.

With their current staffing, the math breaks down to 0.22 of a deputy per 1,000 people.

As Hayden has grown, so does the need for law enforcement.

Deputy Tanner Cox said he’s experienced the strain firsthand as he’s assigned to cover Hayden.

“There’s times where there’s none of us on or times where there’s one of us on and we have to wait 15 minutes when you’re begging for help just because it’s not a safe situation to just send one into,” Cox said.

Sheriff Norris said there need to be more boots on the ground.

“I believe that the City of Hayden should spend commensurably with other cities in Kootenai County on law enforcement,” Norris said.

Last year, the city spent 7-percent of its budget on deputies. More money went to the Parks and Recreation department.

The city did try to get more funding for law enforcement officers using levies, but they didn’t pass.

Along with increasing safety, the sheriff wants to push for more community policing. That means deputies would be assigned to certain areas and get to know the people who live there.

“These types of programs making a relationship — when we’re not answering calls for service, we’re making a relationship with community leaders, with your city leaders and we’re looking for the criminal element,” Norris said.

Norris said they need funds to make this happen. It’s not clear how the city will address the issue.

“With the growth that’s coming — our roads, our schools, our hospitals, our law enforcement — they’re all going to need to be able to grow to meet this,” said Linda Fournier, who lives in Hayden.

Cox said he hopes there’s a levy on the ballot to fund more deputies.

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