While Bellevue and Hailey can celebrate their lowest crime rates in the valley over the past six years, Ketchum, Sun Valley and unincorporated Blaine County have all seen slight rises in crime since a five-year low last year, according to a report by the Idaho State Police released this month.
The State Police conduct an annual Idaho Uniform Crime Report, collecting crime statistics from across the state. Data were compiled for all of Blaine County based on that reported by each local police agency.
The annual report tracked “offenses,” defined as any incident that resulted in a police report being submitted after a call for service and confirmation that a crime had been committed. Unfounded reports were not counted.
In total, 453 criminal offenses were reported for Blaine County in 2018, an increase of 33 from the year 2017.
Hailey reported a 9.21 percent decrease in offenses from 2017 to 2018 and Bellevue reported a 17.07 percent decrease.
Ketchum reported a 7.5 percent increase with 86 offenses in 2018 compared to 80 in 2017. Sun Valley reported a 36.36 percent increase with 30 offenses reported in 2018 compared to 22 in 2017 and the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office reported a 32 percent increase, with 165 criminal offenses reported in 2018 in comparison to 125 in 2017.
Areas of increased offenses included illegal drug and paraphernalia violations, with Blaine County reporting 11 additional drug violations and 24 additional paraphernalia violations in comparison to 2017. Drug and paraphernalia violations include manufacture, sale and possession.
Blaine County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Will Fruehling said he attributes the increases to a fully staffed patrol force as well as a fully staffed Narcotics Enforcement Team—a multi-jurisdictional task force made up of officers from the Sheriff’s Office and the Ketchum, Hailey and Sun Valley Police Departments.
More than two decades old, NET focuses on drug investigation cases throughout the county. Fruehling said the team has added more full-time people to the force and have further trained patrol officers to look for signs of narcotics when making a traffic stop, and because of that, offenses and arrests have subsequently increased.
“Our guys are really looking for it,” he said.
Most notably, a five-month investigation in 2017 led the team to a drug trafficking ring dealing methamphetamine and heroin in Blaine County. That investigation led to the conviction of five people with sentences ranging from probation to six years in prison. Another NET investigation in 2018 led to the conviction of a Twin Falls woman who had sold 476 hydrocodone pills, worth more than $5,000, to a confidential informant in Blaine County, working with the narcotics team.
Fruehling did not note any particular increases in specific controlled substances, but said methamphetamine “has probably increased a bit.” He also noted that the drug profile changes depending on the area of the county. He said that in northern Blaine County, the most typical drugs found are cocaine and marijuana, while in the southern towns of Hailey, and Bellevue, it’s more typical to see methamphetamine and heroin.
In addition to an increase in drug offenses, DUIs continue to be on the rise after a slight drop in 2017. Blaine County reported 169 DUI arrests in 2018, an increase of 38 in comparison to 2017, with most occurring in Ketchum and Hailey. Fruehling said those arrests are typical of those areas because they both have a significant night life and numerous bars. He attributed the increase in arrests of people under the influence of drugs or alcohol to “a proactive group of law enforcement looking out for that.”
Fruehling said the Sheriff’s Office said it will continue to analyze the 2018 report to look for areas of concern that police can improve on.
“[We have] very proactive deputies that work for us,” he said.