Glenwood felonies up 36% for year
Crime is up for 2015, according to several city and county metrics.
In Glenwood Springs, police have seen a 36 percent increase in felony incidents and 8 percent increase in misdemeanors year over year through the end of August. The Garfield County Courthouse has already recorded more felony cases this year than in the whole of 2014. Thursday, the Garfield County Jail housed 120 inmates — up from 90 the same week last year.
Even without the numbers, Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson has noticed a difference.
“Right now I’d just call it a bubble — a couple of real busy months,” he said. “If we continue to see it, we’re into a trend.”
In Glenwood, the biggest uptick seems to be in simple assaults (up 62 percent year over year) and thefts from buildings (up 78 percent). While percentage increases in a small community that normally has little crime can exaggerate the severity of the situation, Wilson said his officers are feeling the difference.
“Seems like we’ve had more fights and assaults near downtown bars than we’ve had in quite a while,” he said. “We’re also getting interfered with and harassed more than I’ve ever seen.”
“I think it follows a general nationwide trend that has encouraged disrespect for all authority and specifically police,” he added. “If the cops in Baltimore killed someone, that’s because cops are bad. The thought process doesn’t go much deeper for a lot of people. It only takes one officer or one bad decision to paint all of us and paint our profession.”
As for the rash of recent break-ins, Wilson believes a few individuals and groups may be responsible for several of them. He also cited drug use as a common thread in both violent incidents and property crimes.
“If you want to be high and that’s your primary goal, you’ve got to come up with money somehow,” he said.
Wilson also expressed some frustration with a court system that he says emphasizes rehabilitation over incarceration.
“I still believe there’s value in traditional punishment as a deterrent,” he said.
At the moment, the trend seems confined to Garfield County. According to District Attorney Sherry Caloia, the Pitkin County hasn’t seen a comparable increase, while Rio Blanco is actually down this year. She suspects the county’s growing population may be partially to blame.
According to Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario, the county hosted up to 200 inmates at the height of the oil boom. Similarly, the high water mark at the courthouse for felony cases was 773 in 2005.
“During the recession, a lot of people moved away. That meant less people, which equated to less crime,” Caloia explained. “Now that we’re on the upkick, there’s more people coming into the community and more crime.”
Like Wilson, she also suspected increased drug use as a factor behind some of the more severe crimes.
The underlying cause of the drug use, meanwhile, is more mysterious.
“I wish I knew why,” she said. “That would be the first step to getting rid of it.”
In the meantime, she encouraged locals to be vigilant.
“Lock your doors, close your windows, don’t leave stuff in your cars, and keep track of your mail,” she said.
While Vallario agreed with the need for security, he cautioned against seeing the trend as more than part of a natural fluctuation.
“This is a great place to live, but there’s a constant level of crime in any community that’s going to waver up and down a little,” he observed. “I just don’t see us turning into the inner city.”
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