Wednesday, July 4, 2012

County crime rate drops 18.5 percent

2011 marks third year in a row in crime downturn


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

For the third year in a row, the crime rate has declined in Blaine County.

Information on the crime rate is contained in a 2011 Crime in Idaho report released Monday by Idaho State Police, the agency that compiles crime data from police agencies throughout the state. According to the report, serious crime dropped 18.5 percent in Blaine County in 2011.

Statewide, serious crime was up 2.3 percent.

The 2011 crime rate drop follows declines in Blaine County in 2010 of 3.9 percent and in 2009 of 23.8 percent.

Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey was delighted with the new data.

"This is great news that crime is down 18.5 percent," Ramsey said Tuesday. "It's kind of been on a downward trend since 2008.

"As much as I'd like to take credit, I'd have to attribute it to the cooperation and the assistance and the trust of the community," he said. "This is a safe community throughout Blaine County. We're all one community here."

ISP bases its crime rate calculations on serious offenses reported to the agency 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 offenses 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 account crimes that are classed as "Group B" offenses, which include such things as alcohol offenses, trespassing, bad checks, runaways and disorderly conduct.

While the overall crime rate was down, the ISP report shows that DUI offenses continue to grow in Blaine County. According to the report, there were 165 DUI arrests in Blaine County in 2011, compared with 155 in 2010 and 134 in 2009.

The most prevalent Group A offense committed in Blaine County in 2011 was larceny with 133 reports. Tied for second with 74 reports apiece were burglary and vandalism. Following that were drug and narcotic offenses at 53 reports and aggravated assaults at 42.

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In addition to providing countywide statistics, the ISP report provides crime rate data for each individual law enforcement agency in Blaine County.

The Ketchum Police Department showed the largest crime decline with Group A offenses down 40.1 percent in 2011. The Bellevue Marshal's Office showed a crime rate decline of 30.2 percent while the Hailey Police Department showed a decline of 16 percent.

According to ISP, Group A offenses were up in cases investigated by the Blaine County Sheriff's Office and the Sun Valley Police Department. The report shows an increase of 18.2 percent in crimes investigated by the sheriff's office and of 5 percent in those investigated by Sun Valley police.

Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter and Ketchum Police Chief Steve Harkins attributed the decline in crime to both improved law enforcement and to the fact that there have been fewer people in the Wood River Valley the past few years.

"Crime started to fall when the economy tanked," Gunter said Monday. "We still don't have the volume of people coming through the valley that we used to, so we still have a lower crime rate.

"As the economy improves and we see more people in the valley, we could see an increase next year," Gunter said. "It kind of equates to more activity—more crime."

Gunter further said that another effect of the bad economy is that it has led to police officers staying with their jobs longer rather than seeking employment elsewhere. With lower turnover, he said, his and other agencies in the valley have officers with more experience than in the past.

Harkins agreed that fewer people in the area has also helped reduce the crime rate, but noted that improved law enforcement has also been a factor.

"The Ketchum Police Department strives to provide superior law enforcement services and to keep our community a safe place to live, work and play," Harkins said.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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