The Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office released its annual report and celebrated some of its deputies at the March 22 Sandoval County Commission meeting.

Sheriff Jesse James Casaus was on hand at the meeting and Chief Deputy Allen Mills presented the report, which highlighted the work the Sheriff’s Office has done in the past year.

From January to December 2022, deputy calls for service increased by more than 15%, business and home checks went up 24%, traffic stops jumped 36% and the number of times the SCSO assisted other agencies ballooned by over 66%.

“I will tell you that the K-9 unit was a huge amount of that number,” Mills said. “The K-9 unit has been helping Rio Rancho, the town of Bernalillo, even Albuquerque, the DEA. Probably the lion’s share of that increase was pretty specific to the K-9 unit.”

The sheriff’s office also fully implemented the use of body cameras on every deputy last year.

“The cameras have proven invaluable in recording deputy’s actions, resolving complaints and providing transparency,” Casaus said in the report. “The majority of deputies favor wearing the body-worn cameras which has proven to keep good deputies safe from false and malicious complaints and document the great job the deputies do for the community.”

The crime stats showed little to no increase in murder, rape, assaults or robbery. There was a slight increase in residential burglary, which has been trending downward for years in Sandoval County. The report showed 56 residential burglaries in 2017. That number dropped each year since with just 18 incidents in 2021. There were 21 residential burglaries in 2022.

“In 2009, we had 94 residential burglaries and since 2009 until today, we’ve been drawing them down about 10 or so each year,” Mills said. “That’s something to me personally is very important because that is really important to address. And I think that the sheriff’s office has addressed that very well. I think a little bit of that was through narcotics enforcement because a lot of people that commit burglaries, it’s dope related. I think the visibility of the sheriff’s office, I think we are very visible.”

The Street Crimes and Intelligence Unit had a busy year as 2022 also saw the sheriff’s office take more than $822,000 worth of narcotics off the street, including over $400,000 of fentanyl. In 2021, $89,000 worth of narcotics were taken into custody by SCSO.

District 5 Commissioner Joshua Jones followed Mills’ presentation by asking where the fentanyl is coming from.

“It was 59,000 pills and the number was $413,00 in street value,” Mills said. “I can tell you that a lot of it comes through Arizona from Phoenix, which comes across the border from Mexico and China originally.”

District 2 Commissioner Jay Block said while there has been a recent uptick in funding for the department in the past five years, he wants the commissioners to spend more money on the sheriff’s office, specifically more funding for the narcotics department.

“The fentanyl, I mean 59,000 pills and you hit it exactly right Chief Mills, it’s because of the damn open borders and the cartels running the borders that are just killing our country,” Block said. “When I look at your December of 2021 report compared to 2022, I think you need more funding for narcotics, Sheriff, because it’s an incredible tragedy what’s happening to this country since January 2021. With drugs coming into this country from the Communist Chinese party through Mexico through the open borders of this administration, the leading cause of death for Americans between 18 and 44 is drug overdoses because of the policies of this government. I just want to say thank you so much to you and your deputies here that are out there every single day, dealing with some of the most vile people that I can even imagine that are pushing this shit, this stuff on our children. And I really want to thank all of you deputies because I really want to see, and I’ll talk to the chairman and the county manager and the director of finance, I would like to see an increase in our narcotics unit.”

District 1 Commissioner Katherine Bruch, Commission Chair Dave Heil and District 3 Commissioner Michael Meek each took turns showing their gratitude for the hard work done by the sherriff’s office.

“I just want to congratulate your team and recognize you for the tremendous work that you’ve done,” Bruch said. “You’ve been incredibly effective the past few years. I know we were elected at the same time, Sheriff, and I know that we’ve made steady progress. It’s been very helpful to kind of get some calming in place for many of our residents here in Sandoval County, because they think or their perception of crime is often what is happening in the Albuquerque Metro or elsewhere, and not in our own backyard.”

Deputy awards

Prior to the presentation, Casaus and Mills celebrated and awarded several deputies who stood out in 2022.

Kevin Hendricks/Observer
Rodolfo Reyes was named the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office Deputy of the Year for 2022.

Rodolfo Reyes was named as Deputy of the Year after being nominated by two sergeants.

“He has been cited as a dedicated, hard worker who is always willing to go above and beyond,” Mills said. “Deputy Reyes’ productivity is exceptional when measured with measurable law enforcement performance. Deputy Reyes is always willing to help others and always has a smile on his face.”

Other awards presented were:

Commander Commendation Award: Lt. John Castaneda, Sgt. Al Nieves, Sgt. Luke Osborn, Sgt. Thomas Griffin and Deputy Rudy Fields.

Outstanding Public Service Award: ACO Lawrence Tafoya and CSO Thomas Lohr.

Sheriffs Unit Citation Award: Deputy Brian Espinoza, Deputy CJ Smith, Deputy Kevin Dupre, Deputy Robert Touchin and Deputy Michael Huckeby.