Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Crime is up again in Blaine County

Per capita crime still below state average


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer


For the second straight year, crime increased in Blaine County, according to a report released last week by the Idaho State Police.

Serious crime in the county was up 3 percent in 2008, compared to a jump of 27.3 percent in 2007. The increase was contrary to a statewide trend in which serious crime decreased by 6.6 percent in 2008.

Nonetheless, Blaine County still remained below the state average of crimes per capita. The county recorded a crime rate in 2008 of 4,135.9 per 100,000 population, compared to a statewide average of 5,496.4 crimes per 100,000 people.

Blaine County's per capita crime rate in 2007 was 3,993.8 per 100,000 population.

Arrests were also up in the county in 2008. According to the ISP report, there were 731 arrests in Blaine County in 2008, compared to 631 in 2007.

The information is contained in the ISP "Crime in Idaho 2008" report, which is also sometimes referred to as the annual Uniform Crime Report. The report was released July 2.

The ISP report refers to serious crimes as "Group A offenses," which the agency defines as crimes against persons or property. Group A offenses include crimes of violence, thefts, vandalism, and drug and sex crimes.

Blaine County recorded 903 Group A offenses in 2008, compared to 877 in 2007. There were 689 Group A offenses in the county in 206.

Group A offense totals are compiled by individual police agencies and submitted to ISP for compilation. Group A crime totals include reports made by the community to police agencies, whether or not an arrest was made and whether or not the crime was solved.

ISP also records what are called "Group B offenses," which include crimes such as driving under the influence, trespassing or statutory juvenile offenses. Group B offenses are only reported when an arrest is made and are not included in the crime rates contained in the report.

There were 481 Group B offenses in the county in 2008, compared to 403 in 2007. DUI was the most prevalent Group B offense, with 177 arrests in 2008 compared to 164 the previous year.

The most prevalent Group A offenses in Blaine County in 2008 were larceny, 202 reports; vandalism, 132; burglary, 130 and simple assault, 101. Blaine County recorded 105 miscellaneous illegal drug offenses and 11 various sex crimes. There were 61 cases of fraud.

Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas noted that an increase in theft or fraud cases may be attributable to hard economic times in the Wood River Valley and nationwide.

"It doesn't surprise me to see an increase in fraud and car thefts as a result of the downturn in the economy and the fact that many people are living on the economic margin," Thomas said.

"Although the statistics show crime has risen slightly from 2007, Blaine County remains a stable and relatively safe environment in which to live and raise a family."

The Blaine County crime results are broken down on a city-by-city basis. However, results for a city can be misleading because the crimes are recorded by the police agency that investigated rather than where the crime actually occurred. For example, the city of Bellevue showed a 123.3 percent increase in Group A crime in 2008 but the number is not reflective of actual crime in the city.

Sheriff Walt Femling explained that his agency investigated most of the crimes in 2007 in Bellevue because the Bellevue Marshal's Office lost staff throughout the year. Toward the end of the year, the only investigator left was former Marshal Tim Green.

"I ended up investigating because there wasn't anyone there to do it," Femling said.

The Bellevue Marshal's Office became more fully staffed starting in December 2007 when Femling's office contracted for police services in the city. Statistics compiled after that better reflect the city's actual crime rate.

The Bellevue situation is also reflected in sheriff's office statistics for 2008, which showed a decrease in Group A crimes of 25.7 percent.

Elsewhere in the county, the city of Hailey showed an 8.3 percent increase in Group A offences in 2008. The city of Ketchum showed a 12.2 percent decrease in Group A crimes, while the city of Sun Valley experienced an 11.9 increase.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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