Packed In: Kootenai County sheriff says cost of living in North Idaho makes recruitment hard

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho– As more people pack into the Inland Northwest, the need for more law enforcement officers grows.

Kootenai County Sheriff Robert Norris said part of the reason it’s been so hard to hire more people is the cost of living.

Realtors in North Idaho said the boom in the housing market started last year. The lack of restrictions attracted people to the area, Lindsay Allen president of CDA Regional Realtors said. She said a lot of out-of-town buyers came to the area and paid cash.

That’s continuing now but with fewer sales and listings this year, according to Allen.

A study from the University of Idaho said 75-percent of the people who live in Kootenai County used to be able to afford a home there. Now, that number is closer to 25-percent.

Affordability is something the sheriff’s office said is causing problems for its recruitment efforts.

“We need to improve the wages here in Kootenai County. We need to improve them to the point where I can attract talent from other industries that already have housing and living here to the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office,” Norris said.

Norris said deputies are having to fill in on places they normally wouldn’t like the dispatch center and the jail.

“We’re growing at such a rapid pace here that growth and crime have caught up to Kootenai County and we need to adequately address those concerns,” Norris said.

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