Robbery, child sex assault up

A Grand Junction police SWAT team assembles in the 700 block of Glenwood Avenue in this file photo from March of last year. The assault call was resolved with no violence.

While Grand Junction in 2013 saw the most calls for police service over a three-year period, total reported crime declined last year, according to the Grand Junction Police Department’s 2013 annual report on crime.

This, as the department deployed fewer officers and suspended specialized units in order to beef up day-to-day patrol operations.

“Some (calls for service) may not always be reporting crime, but when they want an officer they get one,” Police Chief John Camper said Thursday. “We’re trying to look at alternative ways to handle those reports.”

Total reported crime in Grand Junction in 2013 included 9,995 incidents, a 3 percent decline from 2012, while calls for service to the Grand Junction Regional Communications Center that were routed to a Grand Junction officer totaled 63,609, up 5.3 percent year-to-year.

In 2011, the dispatch center handled 59,429 calls for the agency.

Grand Junction’s annual report said violent crime rose slightly in 2013 driven by a spike in robberies. Some 51 robberies were reported in 2013, up from 35 in 2012. Camper pointed to an increase in shoplifting cases when suspects become violent with a security officer. In such instances, robbery is typically added to charges, he said.

The report said it happened 17 times in 2013, compared to just four in 2012.

“We really didn’t have much increase in classic stick-ups,” Camper said.

Grand Junction in 2013 also recorded a fifth-consecutive annual rise in reported cases of sexual assault on a child. There were 99 cases in 2013, up from 70 in 2012, according to the report. Forty-eight were reported in 2011; 45 in 2010 and 29 in 2009.

Reasons for the rise are twofold, police said.

Since 2012, Grand Junction has participated in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) national program. Using grant-funded software, the program allows Grand Junction police to receive alerts under certain circumstances whenever a local computer IP address downloads suspected images of child pornography. The technology also helps them target out-of-area predators communicating online with local children.

“The other thing is the juvenile-age sexting, social media stuff,” said Police Sgt. William Baker, who heads Grand Junction’s investigations division. “That plays a huge role in those (child sex assault) numbers.”

Baker added, “I’d strongly encourage all parents with kids on Facebook, Snapchat or with phones to have full access to those accounts. Review what’s on your child’s devices.”

Declines in certain other crimes over 2013 are attributed by Camper and the agency to staffing woes.

Drug violations, driving under the influence cases and liquor violations — all characterized by Camper as predominantly “proactive” enforcement efforts — dropped significantly in 2013. The agency’s traffic unit was disbanded in January 2013 to help fill gaps among patrol ranks. The Homeless Outreach Team was also suspended for the same reason before being restaffed.

Traffic tickets in 2013 declined by nearly half year-to-year, 4,329 compared to 7.940 in 2012, according to the report. Last year also saw a five-year high for traffic accidents in Grand Junction. Consistent with those figures, Grand Junction also reported a 19 percent decrease in traffic stops.

Camper said they were “hopeful” to be able to reinstate the traffic unit later this year. Authorized at 109 officers, the agency currently has seven officers in field training with regular officers and another four in the Western Colorado Peace Officers Academy, he said.

“At one point, we were down to 92 officers who were deployable,” Camper said. “When you have fewer officers in total, you’re going to be less proactive.”


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