Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Crime rate drops again in Blaine County

Police attribute decline to state of the economy


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Express graphic by Coly McCauley According to the Idaho State Police Crime in Idaho report, the crime rate in Blaine County declined in 2010 for the second year in a row.

For the second year in a row, the crime rate has dropped in Blaine County.

The annual "Crime in Idaho" report was released on Friday by the Idaho State Police. According to the report, serious crime in Blaine County dropped 3.9 percent in 2010. That follows a 23.8 percent decline in 2009.

Statewide, the crime rate dropped 1.6 percent in 2010.

Local law enforcement officials attributed the decline to the state of the economy.

"Crime is down in the county in general, and I'd like to attribute it to great law enforcement, but it's really just following the trends of the economy," said Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter. "We got less people, we get less crime."

The "Crime in Idaho" report is compiled from information provided to ISP by law enforcement agencies throughout the state.

ISP bases the crime rate on serious offenses reported throughout the year. Serious crime, identified in the report as "Group A" offenses, is defined as crimes against persons, society or property and includes such things as murder or manslaughter and other crimes of violence, sex crimes, drug offenses, vandalism, arson, various types of theft, gambling and bribery.

Crime rate calculations do not take into consideration "Group B" offenses, which include such things as alcohol offenses, trespassing, disorderly conduct and vagrancy.

While the overall crime rate was down, the number of DUI offenses, listed by ISP as a Type B crime, was up 15.6 percent in Blaine County in 2010. The report states that there were 155 DUI arrests in 2010, compared to 134 in 2009.

According to the report, there were 661 Type A offenses reported in Blaine County in 2010. That compares to 688 reported in 2009 and 903 reported in 2008.

In 2010, the largest number of offenses reported was for larceny at 166. Second was burglary at 109, third was vandalism at 101, fourth was aggravated assault at 57 and fifth was drugs and narcotics at 45.

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Crime rate results for 2010 varied widely among Blaine County's five police agencies. The cities of Sun Valley and Bellevue and the Blaine County Sheriff's Office showed crime rate decreases while the cities of Hailey and Ketchum showed crime rate increases.

Sun Valley showed a decrease of 32.2 percent, Bellevue a decrease of 27.1 percent and the Sheriff's Office a decrease of 22.7 percent. Hailey showed an increase of 3.4 percent while Ketchum showed an increase of 30.6 percent.

Ketchum Police Chief Steve Harkins noted that statistics and calculations in the "Crime in Idaho" report are only reliable if police agencies correctly report them.

"Since the transition, we've strived to report crimes accurately," said Harkins, referring to 2009 when the Blaine County Sheriff's Office contracted to provide police services to the city of Ketchum.

Harkins acknowledged that there were increases in theft and vandalism crimes in Ketchum in 2010. He attributed part of the increase to a bike theft ring out of the Twin Falls area that stole some 30 expensive racing bicycles in the town. Recovery of the bicycles was made difficult by the fact that the theft ring dissembled most of the bikes and sold them for parts.

Harkins further noted that the number of crimes reported may be up because the public has more confidence in the police department.

"We have a community-based police department and people feel comfortable in reporting crime because they know that we will investigate," he said.

Sun Valley Police Chief Cameron Daggett said crime was down in his town in 2010 because there were fewer people.

"While I'd love to take credit for this, it's actually more attributable to the economy," Daggett said. "Less construction, fewer visitors, both are down. I just imagine that's the biggest factor."

Daggett also noted that he has an extremely qualified police force with little turnover.

"That's certainly a helpful factor in deterring crime," he said.

Former Bellevue Marshal Bryan Carpita attributed the crime decrease in that town to increased law enforcement presence made possible by a contract to have police services provided to Bellevue by the Sheriff's Office.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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