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Hotchkiss crime numbers 'about average' in 2016

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The Hotchkiss Marshal's Office filed reports on 1,421 incidents in 2016. That number is about average for the past five years, said Marshal Dan Miller. In 2015, 1,395 incidents were reported.

Assaults were among the most serious issues the department faced in 2016, said Miller. In all, 26 reports of harassment/intimidation and assault were filed, although not all resulted in convictions. While most involved alcohol or drugs, there were no bar-related incidents.

The department filed 24 reports of theft. Of those, three involved forced entry. That's not a big number considering the amount of people traveling through town, said Miller. While Hotchkiss is a friendly town, he said, people should still consider locking their cars, houses and outbuildings.

Eleven reports related to fraud and impersonation were filed, up from four in 2015. Losses were generally between $12-$1,500, with most of the criminals operating out of the area or the country. These crimes are the result of people being too trusting, said Miller. While credit card companies are doing a good job of detecting fraud and warning consumers, "People have to be very vigilant, especially seniors."

Nine incidents of domestic violence were reported. The department also responded to five incidents of child abuse, including children left in cars or being disciplined inappropriately. And while every case is taken seriously, not all were legitimate or resulted in charges, said Miller.

Hotchkiss has seen an increase in incidents involving citizens with mental illness, said Miller. The department responded to nine reports of citizens with mental issues. Suicide threats increased from one in 2015, to four in 2016. Colorado is one of a handful of states that puts citizens with mental health issues behind bars, which is a policy Miller said he would like to see changed.

Fifty animal-related reports were filed, most dealing with dogs running loose without tags. (Dog tags are available for a small fee at Town Hall.)

Traffic violations were down from 234 in 2015 to 185 in 2016; alcohol-related DUIs numbered seven, up one from 2015. Considering that two state highways converge at Hotchkiss, those numbers aren't alarming.

The department participated in 87 medical assist calls, four Fish and Game hunting violations, and 60 agency assists. The department responded to 60 requests for assistance.

A total of 291 Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) inspections were performed, most of which were referred by the Delta County Hotchkiss annex, said Miller.

Other reports included two marijuana possessions and one sale of marijuana, one peeping Tom, six violations of court-ordered protection, 59 responses to burglar alarms, five unattended death investigations, three juvenile runaways, nine reports of loud adult parties, seven missing persons, 12 suspicious person reports, 51 traffic accidents, and 17 items submitted to the lost and found.

The department began using body cams last February. That's going "very well," said Miller. The cameras help reduce liability, and footage is proving to be useful in court cases, both for the defense and persecution. It can also show juries what actually took place during an incident or crime. Footage is maintained for 120 days unless it's needed for other purposes, and has been used for in-house training.

The Citizen's Police Academy taught last summer by Officer Gates Shaklee also was well-received and garnered a lot of positive comments, said Miller. The 10 citizens who completed the academy received a certification. The academy is designed to make citizens more aware of how to recognize and respond to crimes, and more aware of how the department works. "It helps the public understand just what law enforcement is doing for them, and how it's done."

There is more demand for the academy. With the department facing budget cuts in 2017, it's not likely to be repeated this year, said Miller, but hopefully will return in the future.

The local Neighborhood Watch program has been successful in the past. "We're there to support them," said Miller, but the program likely receive less support from the department due to budget cuts in 2017. In addition, Shaklee, who worked closely with the program, accepted a position with the Delta County Sheriff's Office in January. Officer Chris McDonald, who joined the force in January, is in the process of learning all of Shaklee's duties. "We will continue to do what we can with what we have," said Miller.

Overall, said Miller, the town "still has a small-town atmosphere and idealism, but we have to be careful.' While it has retained it's "Mayberry image, we still have our problems."

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