A father of a teenage daughter and an older son, Joe Hagerty the dad takes reports of abduction attempts with a special interest.
That doesn't change the moment he puts on his badge and becomes Sheriff Joe Hagerty, the top law enforcement officer in Wright County.
"Those make your ears perk up right away. I'm no different than anyone living in that neighborhood in Albertville right now. I want to know what the heck is going on," Hagerty said during a recent conversation in an Albertville coffee shop just blocks from where the Labor Day abduction attempt took place. "We have two detectives and a full time sergeant on this right now."
It's easy, Hagerty said, for the Wright County Sheriff's Department to be painted as a bad guy when something like this happens. Fortunately, he said, there hasn't been anyone abducted from Wright County for quite some time. Fortunately, he added again, the public has been incredibly helpful when it comes to the investigation.
"It started with about the man who approached her as well," he said. "We've been running across white vans all over, though. Think of how many people drive those for work. There's even a couple of neighbors who have one. So it's a long process."
Hagerty said the county has run the girl's description through the state's database of convicted and registered sex offenders, searching for a match. They've also talked with every department within the county, and neighboring departments (Sherburne, Stearns, Hennepin and other counties, as well as St. Cloud and other city departments), asking them to be on the lookout.
One common criticism in comments left here on Patch was the county didn't use its resources to inform the entire neighborhood of the incident, instead using a delayed media release (it came out Tuesday, the incident happened on a Saturday) and information obtained via Patch.
"The county used tax dollars to pay for that," one commenter said, "and they're not using it."
No calls were made using the county's robocall system, and no neighborhood meetings were held.
"We do use those in certain cases," Hagerty said of the calls and neighborhood meetings. "But in this case we're still working off a lot of things that need validation. We're trying to add up information before causing any sort of false alarm with a call or meeting."
He added that many deputies have been in the area and approachable during their rounds, and the sheriff's office has been happy to field multiple calls and questions, which it has.
"We've found in these situations we're best if we keep it steady," Hagerty said. "People get whipped up if you overreact and alarm people too quickly."
In the case of, Hagerty said the story never really added up, and the report was determined as unfounded.
"In the Labor Day incident, we had people outside who saw the girl talking to this man who had confronted her, and even one mom who remembered seeing the van. In this case, we had people outside who saw her but never saw any sort of conversation with anyone else," Hagerty said. "We still investigate, but sometimes the kids see something-and they're on high alert anyway-and it's not what they think it was. Or, they're just talking about something that didn't happen."
That said, Hagerty is hoping people don't stop calling.
"We're never going to tell you not to call. So yes, give us a call if there's something you see that doesn't work right. We want crime to go down as much as you do. We want our kids safe, too."
The general number for the sheriff's department is 763-682-1162. For an emergency, of course, call 911.