WINTERSET, Iowa -- "We get all kinds of calls, ranging from accidents to dog bites to domestics, shots fired," said Sergeant Kory Heckstein. "We deal with it all down here."
Madison County Sheriff's deputies like Sgt. Heckstein deal with it all, and often alone.
"A lot of times you're by yourself," said Sgt. Heckstein. "You deal with what you get, as you get it, and safety is a big concern, not just for officers, but also for the community. And our response time, if we're tied up with one call, we could be backed up 2, 3, 4 calls. Our county is 550 square miles and to get from one point to the next, it can take a period of time."
Sometimes, depending on the call, Winterset Police or State Troopers will help out if they're close by--but that takes time.
"Sometimes your backup's 15, 20 minutes away, and you're alone."
Being alone can lead to some dicey situations, like one instance five years ago when two taxi drivers from Des Moines brought a resident from the county home from the bar one night.
"The bill was $60," said Sgt. Heckstein. "He had $30 on his person, went in the house to get the additional money, came out with a pistol, fired 16 rounds into the air, in the ground. The taxi drivers fled to a neighbor's residence and waited for me to get there. I got there and was talking to him in the roadway and the same subject walked 200 yards to where we were standing with an AK-47 and came around the house."
Fortunately, the man surrendered and was taken into custody.
"You have to have the proper mindset," said Sgt. Heckstein. "You can't be scared. You just gotta deal with what you get. A lot of it comes down to talking to people. It gets stressful."
The population of Madison County as of the last census was 15,679. Sheriff Jason Barnes estimates that population to be at at least 17,000 now. Sheriff Barnes says the sheriff's office handles an average of 650 calls for service a month.
The office just hired two deputies in the last four months, but those deputies replaced two who retired. Sheriff Barnes says he could still use two more deputies with the steady rise in calls and investigations. Sheriff Barnes says the County Board of Supervisors is very supportive and he's confident they will give his office what it needs going forward. The sheriff says the board is aware of the problem and the issue is brought up at every budget hearing.