Crime is down in Garfield County, Vallario reports
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Crime in Garfield County has dropped off a bit, Sheriff Lou Vallario confirmed this week.
“I think, yeah, we’re in a lull right now,” Vallario said in response to a question on Friday. “It’s sort of given us a little but of breathing room, organizationally.”
The slump in crime statistics is largely due to the ongoing regional recession and a related drop in the numbers of transient workers in the county, Vallario said.
“We were sort of in this Dodge City kind of attitude here,” Vallario said of the late 1990s and early 2000s. “But it’s leveled off.”
According to a statistical report on crime in the county, sheriff’s deputies responded to more than 31,400 calls for service in 2011, compared to 28,200 in 2010 and 26,000 in 2009.
But over the same time period, actual criminal court cases resulting from those calls for service dropped from just under 2,100 in 2009, to approximately 1,800 in 2011.
Vallario reported that in 2011 there were 213 cases of assault, 210 thefts, and 90 drunk driving cases.
In 2009, the statistics show, there were 245 assault cases, 298 cases of theft and 95 drunk driving charges.
Over the same three-year period, sexual offenses fluctuated from 37 in 2009, 33 in 2010 and 35 in 2011.
Vallario’s statistical analysis of the sex-offense data show that in 2009, not quite a third of all sexual offenses were classified as “unlawful sexual contact,” a less serious charge than the remainder, which were classified as “sexual assault.”
By 2011, the percentage of unlawful sexual contact had fallen to less than 6 percent, leaving the remainder as sexual assaults.
Drug offenses also have fallen off, from 114 in 2009 to only 88 in 2011.
“Cocaine has still been our dominant drug,” Vallario said, explaining that the county has not had the same level of trouble with crystal meth as other areas.
At the same time, the number of traffic tickets issued by deputies has increased significantly, from 1,132 in 2009, to 2,289 in 2011.
Along with the stepped up number of tickets, the county’s traffic-ticket revenues nearly doubled in two years, from $70,000 in 2010 to roughly $135,000 in 2011.
But his department’s increased focus on traffic enforcement, Vallario stressed, “is not a revenue thing.”
For one thing, he said, “$135,000 is not that much when you’re talking about an $18 million budget.”
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The real cause, he maintained, is that his deputies have had more time to, as he termed it, “self-initiate” their patrol activities because “the more serious crimes are down.”
Rather than reacting to calls involving everything from burglaries to bar fights, trespassing to auto theft, the deputies are able to cruise around, observe what’s going on around the county and be a visible presence.
As a consequence, he said, traffic stops have been rising.
Other shifts in focus, he said, have included more attention to the department’s educational activities in the local schools.
Despite the drop in serious crimes, Vallario said he is holding steady with approximately 150 employees in his department.
“We all know the economy’s going to turn around,” he said, “and Garfield County’s going to grow again. As Garfield County grows, our organization is going to grow. As Garfield County levels off, our organization is going to level off.”
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