Information in the latest Idaho State Police “Crime in Idaho” report shows that the crime rate in Blaine County has remained somewhat steady the last few years following a sharp decline in 2009.
Express graphic by Kristen Kaiser
The crime rate in Blaine County dipped again in 2013, continuing a trend of fewer serious crimes in the county that followed a sharp decline in the crime rate in 2009, according to a new Idaho State Police report.
Local police authorities have mainly attributed the crime rate decline since 2008 to the “Great Recession,” when the county’s population basically became steady following population increases for several years before that.
Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey further attributed the crime rate decrease to community awareness.
“We have a bunch of citizens who are engaged and they look out for each other, and that’s why crime is reducing, and it has for several years,” Ramsey said. “We just have a caring community and they watch out for each other.”
The Idaho State Police “Crime in Idaho” report released on July 1 shows that the county’s crime rate dropped 5.5 percent in 2013. That compares to a statewide crime rate decline of 1.2 percent.
Information in the report is compiled from data provided by individual law enforcement agencies throughout the state. The data only includes crimes reported to and investigated by police agencies.
The crime rate is calculated from what ISP classifies as “Group A” offenses, which are considered the more serious offenses and are defined as crimes against society, people or property.
Not included as Group A offenses, and thus not included in crime rate calculations, are crimes such as driving under the influence, disorderly conduct, trespassing, violating liquor laws, being a “peeping Tom” or writing bad checks.
The ISP report shows that there were 554 Group A offenses in Blaine County in 2013. That compares to 586 in 2012, 539 in 2011, 661 in 2010, 688 in 2009 and 903 in 2008.
Although not included in the crime rate calculation, the ISP report shows that DUI offenses, based upon arrests, were down 15 percent in Blaine County in 2013 compared to the previous year. According to the report, there were 113 DUI arrests in the county in 2013 and 133 in 2012.
The ISP report shows that the most prevalent Group A offense in Blaine County in 2013 was larceny, with 120 reports. Second was vandalism with 109 reports, followed by drug/narcotics offenses with 79 reports. There were 56 burglary reports, 44 drug-equipment reports and 25 aggravated-assault reports.
The 2013 crime rate varied widely with the county’s five law enforcement agencies, with three of them showing crime rate decreases and two of them showing crime rate increases. Cases reported to and investigated by the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office were down 23.4 percent. Also down was the Ketchum Police Department by 19.9 percent and Bellevue Marshal’s Office by 7.8 percent.
Crime rate increases were recorded by the Hailey Police Department at 9.8 percent and by the Sun Valley Police Department at 20 percent.
Sun Valley Police Chief Walt Femling noted that the crimes of aggravated assault and vandalism were higher in particular for the city.
Regarding vandalism, Femling said the increase was a “direct result that in 2013 we were never at full staff, which really reflects on our patrol presence.”
“We were down two or three officers for the entire 2013,” he said. “We’re getting that remedied now and we’re looking to make that number lower through increased police presence. Vandalism can definitely be attributed to patrol presence.”
Femling described the increase in aggravated-assault reports as unusual.
“I think that’s just one of those anomalies that happened,” Femling said. “Whenever you have violent crime, that’s a concern, but I don’t see that as a trend happening. It’s just that 2013 was one of those years.”
Hailey Police Jeff Gunter noted that the highest increase in his city was “narcotics-associated charges.”
“Overall, I’m pleased with the report because the increase is related to officers taking more drugs off the streets by being more thorough during their field contacts.”
Gunter further said that the crime rate likely increased because the city is experiencing a modest increase in population.
“We’re still a safe city to live in and we were expecting a little increase,” Gunter said.
The full ISP report is available at the ISP website at www.isp.idaho.gov.