Felony cases drop in county

With 2010 felony prosecutions in Mesa County on pace to drop to levels not seen in six years, District Attorney Pete Hautzinger suggests the county’s campaign against methamphetamine continues to show results.

“It’s the one thing we’ve done differently from a policy perspective over the last five or six years,” Hautzinger said in a recent interview. “There’s still a lot more crime than I’d like to see.”

Through Dec. 7, felony filings from Mesa County’s 21st Judicial District Attorney’s office stood at 1,576 for 2010, on pace to finish well under the 2009 total of 1,812, according to District Attorney’s Office records. Since 2005, when law enforcement was scrambling to apprehend suspects in a series of high profile, meth-related violent crimes, felony-case filings have declined steadily.

State and federal law enforcement agencies have worked together in a renewed focus on dismantling Mesa County drug organizations. At the same time, Mesa County entered the drug-treatment business, investing $5 million in 2007 to open the Summit View facility in downtown Grand Junction. Meanwhile, a community task force focused on prevention in Mesa County schools while promoting a television advertising campaign with graphic anti-meth messages.

The decline in 2010 felony filings may partially reflect new sentencing guidelines that were signed into law in June by Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, Hautzinger said.

Among other aspects of the legislation, possession of 8 to 12 ounces of marijuana became a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Previously, it was a Class 4 felony.

Tightening budgets for Colorado law enforcement agencies may be at play, too, Hautzinger said. The Grand Junction Police Department in August eliminated its Street Crimes Unit, reassigning its four officers to fill gaps on patrol.

Total reported crime in Grand Junction had dipped nearly 10 percent year-to-year, with 7,564 incidents through October this year, down from 8,401 for the same months in 2009, according to Grand Junction Police Department figures.


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