WEST VALLEY CITY — Delbert Allen Tsosie, 42, was recently arrested when police say he became highly intoxicated and chased young girls at his apartment complex while not wearing any pants, forcibly grabbing one of them.
The incident on its own was serious. But adding to the frustration of police is the fact that Tsosie was even on the street at all.
His arrest record is extensive. Nearly 200 cases have been filed against him in the Utah courts since 1988, according to a count of state court records by the Deseret News.
"Obviously this is a problem," said West Valley Police Sgt. Mike Powell. "How many times does a person have to be arrested before some type of intervention has to be done?"
The problem for law enforcers and the judicial system is the majority of Tsosie's arrests prior to his most recent were for misdemeanor non-violent crimes, mainly public intoxication and shoplifting. He does, however, have several felony convictions, including felony shoplifting convictions in 2003 and 2009, and a conviction on an amended charge of felony attempted possession of drugs with intent to distribute in 1996, according to court records.
But because his arrests are primarily alcohol related, Powell said he rarely serves his full sentences. In 2009, after being sentenced to a year in jail, Tsosie was arrested again just three months later.
The frequency at which Tsosie is being arrested is a problem for police, Powell said.
"You don't see many with that type of rap sheet. This pattern of behavior has to be stopped. This is just unacceptable," Powell said. "He's a strain on the system."
Agencies from across the valley are arresting Tsosie once a week on average, he said, sometimes multiple times a week.
Court records show that in July 2003, Tsosie was charged six times. Three of those cases were all filed within a week. All of the cases were for minor, non-violent offenses.
In July 2004, Tsosie was charged three times in five days for different cases, according to court records. Again, all were for non-violent minor offenses.
Even though the majority of his arrests have been for minor offenses, Powell said he hopes the courts will take strong action this time.
"He is a habitual problem. He has a habitual drinking problem," he said. "We can only do so much from a police perspective. We hope the courts see how much of a problem it has been. He needs help and intervention."
In 2007, Salt Lake City conducted a study in which they identified 34 of their most habitual offenders. Although their numbers may be small and most of their crimes petty, authorities said that group ate up a high percentage of the city's public service resources and were costing taxpayers more than $1 million a year.
Between 2002 and 2006, officers dealt with those individuals approximately 15,000 times, costing the city between $1.2 million and $2.5 million.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said the problem is that taxpayers end up paying far more on the back end, after the perpetrator is arrested and incarcerated, rather than paying for treatment programs up front.
"We don't have the resources on the front end for services to transition them out of their addictions," he said.
Because of that, society ends up having to look at law enforcement as a solution. But Gill said that type of dysfunction had to be turned around.
"Because we are failing to invest in treatment up front, we pay multiple times more money on the back end," he said. "Whether we do anything or do nothing, these folks are already taxing our system. I think it really calls out for thinking outside the box, where we can address the chronic mental illness, chronic homelessness and substance abuse components."
The county should not be using its most expensive beds, those at the Salt Lake County Jail, to warehouse the area's chronically homeless or alcoholics.
Gill pointed to a publicized incident out of Reno, Nev., where police for many years dealt with a homeless alcoholic named Murray Barr. He was nicknamed Million Dollar Murray because of how much he single-handedly cost taxpayers because of his addictions.
Across the nation, 14 percent to 17 percent of chronic offenders will eat up about 80 percent of a law enforcement agency's resources, Gill said studies have shown.
While he called the situation a challenge, he said it was not hopeless. He noted programs like Sunrise Metro, an apartment complex for chronically homeless people dealing with addiction or mental illness, are steps in trying to solve the problem.
In the case of Tsosie, police are also disturbed that the frequency of his offenses appear to be picking up, and becoming more serious.
In September, he was charged with felony shoplifting. Already in October, six different cases have been filed against Tsosie in court, mostly for alcohol-related offenses and another felony shoplifting charge.
He was charged Tuesday in Salt Lake County Justice Court with public intoxication for an incident on Oct. 13, the same day he was charged with having an open container.
For his most recent offense, he was charged with felony kidnapping and misdemeanor intoxication.
On Oct. 14, Powell said Tsosie became very intoxicated, went outside of his apartment naked from the waist down, and chased about five girls all under the age of 12. He was able to grab one of the girls, who quickly worked her way free and ran.
"It's definitely a scary situation, especially for young children," he said.14 comments on this story
Police responded quickly and were able to arrest him before anyone was harmed. He was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of child kidnapping, five counts of lewdness involving a child, public intoxication and disorderly conduct.
Powell said Tsosie was so intoxicated that he passed out in the officer's patrol car on the way to jail.
During his initial appearance on Thursday, a judge denied his request for release to Pre-trial Services. A bail hearing is scheduled for Nov. 14.