Habitual offender charged in court nearly 200 times

Published: Saturday, Oct. 29 2011 11:36 p.m. MDT

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.

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