EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Eau Claire County district attorney Gary King's office showed the signs of an ever-increasing case load Thursday.
King’s office filed its 1,000th felony case of 2018 on Tuesday. In 2017, that mark was reached Sept. 1st. Three years earlier, the county’s 1,000th felony case came on Oct. 30th.
"We've always been busy. That's certainly true," he said to WEAU 13 News on Thursday.
The last time there was a drop in felony filings in Eau Claire County was in 2011, when the figure dropped nine to 863. Since then, the annual totals have risen and King’s office is projecting 1,982 felony filings this year –more than doubled from seven years ago.
“I think sometimes it's easy to point to just one thing or two things as a basis for caseloads going up,” King said. “In our county’s case, I think there are numbers of things if you really want to be accurate about why the numbers have gone up. It's not just any one thing.”
King says this rise is, in part, a sign of the increasing use of methamphetamine in the county – something his office has been tracking since July of 2015.
"For a 2 and 1/2 year period, we averaged very consistently about 25 people per month that we would identify as either directly charged or had some charges that were related to methamphetamine use,” he said. “The first six months of this year, that number has gone from 25 to 40 people per month. So, we are up significantly.
“We're on track to see between 400 and 500 people – individuals – with methamphetamine related charges this year, if you look at our first 6 months of data."
Earlier this year, the state legislature put out a proposal to add nearly 54 additional prosecutors throughout Wisconsin – with two of them going into Eau Claire County. That plan was shot down and King says that keeps him and his staff stretched thin.
“You know the old time-honored saying ‘Justice delayed is justice denied.’ We do find ourselves having to prioritize cases that come into the office,” he said. “Certainly that's a very dangerous slope to get on in.”
“We don't like the idea of doing that, but we’ll continue to work very, very hard and do the best job that we can, with the resources that we do have. We’ll deal with things as they come. It's the nature of the business.”
With a metro area continuing to boom, king says the felony case numbers will likely keep rising - and feels the role his office plays within the Chippewa Valley.
“If you really talking about community and what goes on in all of our communities, making sure that we have a safe community is really important for other aspects of government to be able to do their job and for the community to flourish," he said. "Not that we're necessarily more important than any other aspect of government, but I think if your community safety is in a good place, the rest of your community is able to function very well as well."