AP NEWS

South Dakota VA tickets drop, focus on de-escalation

June 25, 2019

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Veterans Affairs police are issuing tickets at a slower rate this year than they did in 2018 at two VA facilities in western South Dakota, authorities said.

Six tickets have been issued so far this year at the Fort Meade and Hot Springs VA campuses combined, while VA police issued 38 citations in 2018 at the same campuses, Rapid City Journal reported.

Most of the tickets issued have been for public intoxication, alcohol possession and disorderly conduct, according to Capt. Kendra Knight with Black Hills Health Care System VA. It is illegal to be drunk or high at VA facilities.

“We don’t write a lot of tickets. Our objective isn’t ticket numbers,” Knight said. “We really want these veterans to come out here and get their care.”

Knight noted that the team of 26 officers and four administrators/dispatchers who oversee safety and security at the Hot Springs and Fort Meade campuses is focused on de-escalating situations.

“We’re geared toward de-escalation and voluntary compliance,” she said. “We’re very customer-service oriented and instead of arresting, writing tickets, going hands-on, we want to engage the veteran, find out what’s going on, what’s causing this situation right now.”

Citations are usually issued to people who show up intoxicated multiple times, refuse treatment or threaten others. Knight said anyone can contest it in court.

The one ticket issued at Fort Meade in 2019 was for disorderly conduct, according to a Black Hills VA spokeswoman. Two of the tickets issued at Hot Springs were for being drunk or high on campus while the others were for theft, alcohol/drug possession and damaging government property.

Federal law outlines specific crimes committed on VA grounds that have fines ranging from $15 for parking illegally to $500 for breaking into locked areas, purposely damaging government property and defacing gravestones, according to federal law.

Knight said crimes such as DUIs, drug or alcohol possession, and bringing weapons to campus require people show up to the federal courthouse in Rapid City so a judge can determine a fine and/or jail time, Knight said.

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com