Packed In: Law enforcement unable to keep up with Hayden’s growth

HAYDEN, Idaho – The growth of a North Idaho town is starting to pose some problems. 

The City of Hayden has too many people and not enough law enforcement, and now, the Kootneai County Sheriff is sounding the alarm.

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 shopping in town. 

Homes are going fast, too.

“It’s kind of like the wild west out there,” said Angela King, the owner and broker of King Realty. She says the market has been in favor of sellers, rather than the buyers who she tries to fight for when buying homes.

Cost is going up tremendously. King said five years ago, the median price of a home was around $340,000. Now, it’s around $600,000.

“People are starting to panic now when they see it’s over $400,000. But, it still kicks people out of the buying range, especially the people who live here, work here, grew up here,” King said.

But with growth comes more issues. 

The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office is seeing a quick rise in crime but does not have enough deputies to help. 

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. 

“We’re starting to see some stresses in our quality of life in the City of Hayden and we want to maintain crime and quality of life issues,” Norris said.

The city had two law enforcement levies fail in recent years. The first was in 2018 to pay for roads and more officers. The other was in 2019 to hire more officers. 

“It doesn’t matter how they pay for it. With the projected growth that Hayden is going to see in the next few years, they need to have more police officers or deputy sheriffs,” Norris said.

City Administrator Brett Boyer said they are reconvening the Public Safety Citizen Committee to gather data and make recommendations for city council to consider regarding public safety. The committee stopped meeting after the last levy failed and then COVID hit.

While it’s bringing the committee back, Boyer said another level is “not on the table” right now. He says the committee needs to meet and get caught up on all the public safety issues in Hayden.

The rise in crime is also a concern to community members. 

The city recently had a few big situations recently, which included an incident where the sheriff said a suspect shot someone and also started a fire. Because of situations like this, Norris is addressing the things that happened in a town hall.

The sheriff’s office will talk with residents Wednesday night about what is happening in the community and what needs to be done to help the town. 

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. and will be held at the Kootenai County Emergency Management Office at 1662 W Wyoming Ave.

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