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No surprise: Crime up in county

It will come as no surprise that crime was up in Garfield County last year. Sheriff Lou Vallario presented the statistics from 2005 to the county commissioners Monday.Overall, the department saw a 14 percent increase in crime reports over 2004, Vallario said. The most frequently reported crimes in the county include theft – the most numerous – assault, driving under the influence of alcohol and drug-related incidents.Arrests increased 11 percent over the previous year.”We handle (and average of) 92 calls for service per day,” Vallario said, a 3 percent increase from 2004.Besides fighting the bad guys, “traffic continues to be a problem,” Vallario said. “I can tell you it’s our second priority,” because there are not enough deputies in the department to handle both crime and traffic.Traffic problems are also likely to increase as the county’s population grows, he added.The commissioners were especially interested in how the sheriff’s department is handling emergency response. Vallario said he is working on a countywide emergency management plan based on a federal model that involves assigning 15 individuals from local government and community organizations such as Valley View Hospital and the school districts, with specific tasks including transportation in the event of evacuation, communications, public health, housing, public works and public education.Both County Commissioner John Martin, a former Glenwood Springs police officer, and County Manager Ed Green said communication with the sheriff’s department over emergency management is not up to par.However, the new model will include a wider range of participants, Vallario said. Those assignments for specific areas of responsibility have not yet been made.”There are more players in the game than there used to be,” Vallario said, “so the responsibility may not fall on county departments.”He added he hopes to have the plan in place “before an event occurs,” such as a natural disaster. Once an event takes place, an emergency operations center will be established, a multi-agency coordination plan kicks in, and all those responsible for individual aspects of emergency management get on with their duties, Vallario said.He also said he plans to hold several exercises to train participants in the various facets of emergency response.”This is a really exciting notion because I like to have everyone involved,” said Commissioner Trési Houpt.Green disagreed.”My concern is, what if we have a flood tomorrow. I don’t think we’re as glued together as we should be,” he said.”I disagree,” Vallario said. “We’re very well prepared” for any emergency with existing cooperative agreements with area law enforcement and fire departments.


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