Crime in county, state declining

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By AJ Vicens

Crime in Jefferson County and Colorado is on the decline, according to the annual Crime in Colorado report released last week by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

But Jeffco Sheriff Ted Mink says fraud and identity theft are on the rise.

“It has evolved over the years to the point where we are now,” Mink said, crediting a shift from reactive to proactive policing as the main reason crime is declining. “However, the new wave of crimes is the technology-based stuff, using the Internet, like ID theft. Those are very, very difficult to prevent or investigate because of the technology.”

The CBI report is a compilation of data from every law enforcement agency in Colorado, and it relies on nationwide standards to classify crimes. Drawing conclusions from the numbers in the report is tricky because of quirks in the way the data are presented.

For example, when a person is arrested for multiple crimes, only the most serious or top crime is used for this report. Also, drawing a correlation between the numbers of offenses reported and the number of arrests is troublesome because an arrest reported in May 2007 may be related to a crime committed in 2006 or any other year.

“You can’t correlate the crimes on here with the arrests,” Mink said. “That’s apples and oranges.”

Or, a person may call and report a burglary, but when a deputy arrives, he or she may reclassify it as a suspicious incident based on the particular circumstances.

But Mink says that overall crime is down and a shift toward problem solving and increased community involvement — rather than reacting to a patrol-based model —is the key.

“Crooks think of it in three ways —opportunity, risk and reward,” Mink said. “We’re trying to do something with the public to reduce that opportunity.”

Capt. Patricia Woodin, who runs the South Precinct station for the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office,agreed that more community involvement and strategic resource allocation have been key to reducing crime.

“Yes, crime is going down,” Woodin said. “Nationally you see it falling, and in Jefferson County we have done many more things to aid in that going down. But I’m hesitant to say it’s all us.”

She pointed to a program called Smart Jeffco in which crime data are compiled and analyzed, and resources are deployed to address trends and patterns. The program also includes regular interaction with other law enforcement agencies, local businesses like Target and Southwest Plaza, and monthly internal meetings to evaluate crime patterns and plans and strengthen them.

“We try to affect crime in that way,” Woodin said. “Smart Jeffco helps a great deal.”

Woodin added that a small number of criminals are responsible for a majority of the crime in a given area, so when crimes start to happen, investigators target known criminals first.

She also pointed to the crime prevention unit, which contacts business owners and homeowners to identify weaknesses at their properties.

Over the three-month period between March 1 and May 31, Jeffco deputies made contact with 706 homeowners because of garage doors left open. Many times the homeowner couldn’t be contacted, so 437 letters were sent to notify them of the security risk. Woodin said that people who practice “puffing,” — turning their cars on to warm up and going back inside —are contacted, but usually not cited.

“It is a violation, and they can be cited,” Woodin said. “But we don’t. We try to just make it an education.”

She pointed to the increased number of arrests made as a good thing, specifically citing the increase in drug arrests among adults and juveniles from 2005 through 2007.

“Where there’s drugs involved, there’s other crimes involved,” Woodin said. “They steal items to pawn. It means we’re proactively attacking the drug problem.”

She admitted however, that drugs will always be a problem.

“To say that we in law enforcement were effective in the drug trade — we’re really not effective,” Woodin said. “But we can’t give up on it.”

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.

Crime in Jeffco

The Crime in Colorado 2007 CBI report can be found at http://cbi.state.co.us/. Under “Features,” look for the “Crime in Colorado” link. Here’s a sample of some of the data compared with past years:

•There were 4,428 offenses reported in Jefferson County in 2007. That’s a nearly 16 percent drop from 2006 to 2007. It’s also an 11.5 percent drop from 2005.

• Larceny/theft has been the highest reported crime in Jeffco for the past three years. The 2007 number —2,218 —is lower than 2005 and 2006.

• There have been two murders/non-negligent homicides in Jeffco each year since 2005.

•The number of DUI, drug and assault arrests was up in 2007 over 2006 and 2005 numbers.