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PPD calls, citations increase in 2016

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Sergeant Neil Ferguson with the Paonia Police Department recently released crime and enforcement statistics for 2016 and offered comparisons from 2015 statistics.

In 2016 the department answered a total of 1,056 calls, up from 974 calls in 2015. In 2016, officers issued just over 170 citations totaling almost $18,000 in fees and fines; in 2015, 89 citations resulted in $8,701.50 in fees and fines. Citations can include animal control, traffic infractions and other misdemeanors.

Since the town was without a code enforcement officer for much of 2016, the department has kept busy with code enforcement, said Ferguson. A total of 147 code enforcement violations resulted in citations. They ranged from parking issues (76) to noxious weeds, junk and failure to shovel snow from sidewalks.

There were just over 155 traffic stops in 2016, up from 125 the prior years. The rise is due to increased traffic enforcement efforts and a bigger public presence by the department, said Ferguson. The PPD responded to one DUI within town limits in 2016. That's not to say there aren't more incidents of DUIs, said Ferguson. Drunk driving is difficult to detect in a small town. The distance drivers travel is generally too short to determine any patterns that might signal impairment, such as weaving or running of stop signs.

Four fraud cases were filed in 2016. Those numbers reflect only cases where victims actually lost money or provided private information, or where identification theft occurred, and don't reflect all of the unsuccessful attempts. The department informs the FBI of fraud cases, but since cases typically involve someone operating out of the area or the country, they are difficult to solve, said Ferguson.

Thefts in Paonia were up from 13 in 2015 to 24 in 2016. Most cases involved thefts of low-value items, often taken from unlocked homes or vehicles. The message: "Lock your cars and houses," said Ferguson. Burglaries were up from one in 2015 to seven this year. Of these, four occurred over the weekend of July 9-10 and involved juveniles. Of those investigations, five have been closed.

Calls involving suicide attempts increased from five in 2015 to seven in 2016. No suicides actually occurred in town. The department also filed a report of an unattended death, which wasn't considered suspicious. Two assaults occurred in 2016. Sex offenses decreased from two in 2015 to one in 2016, although one sex offense has already been reported in 2017, said Ferguson.

Marijuana code enforcement resulted in 11 citations. While Paonia forbids commercial sales, growing of marijuana or manufacture of marijuana products, citations largely dealt with violations under state laws. Under Amendment 64, cultivation of plants for recreational use allows individuals over age 21 to grow up to six plants for personal use. Plants must be kept in an enclosed, locked area and kept out of public view (laws for homes with residents under age 21 are different).

Enforcement is not only for the benefit of the public, but for the grower, said Ferguson. The department filed six reports of stolen plants in 2016, two of which happened the weekend of July 9-10 and involved plants not enclosed and locked as required by state law. Following state laws reduces the likelihood the plants will be stolen, said Ferguson. One successful deterrent, he said, has been the building of a lockable chain link fence around the greenhouse.

Complaints about odors from marijuana plants were a "huge issue," said Ferguson. The department is considering an ordinance that would limit grows to six plants per household, rather than the state-allowed six plants per person, which could reduce noxious odors and complaints. The department plans to hold a question and answer session on the issue in the near future.

No reports of juvenile consumption or possession, and one report of public consumption were filed. While smoking occurs at events like the free summer concert series at Paonia Town Park, people generally know not to consume in public, he said.

Miscellaneous fines totaled $746 in 2016, up from $20 in 2015. Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) inspections brought in $840 in revenue, compared to $475 in 2015.

Grant funding was up in 2016. The department received $5,235 in grants for training and equipment, compared to $475 in 2015. Funding allowed for $2,300 in reimbursements for ammunition purchased for training, and grants funded 90 percent of officer training, including state Peace Officer Standards and Training programs.

Paonia is currently the only town in Delta County that does not use body cams, but that will change in 2017, said Ferguson. The department is also advertising for a full-time officer after 15-year department veteran Bill Hart went on leave for health reasons. Hart and Hotchkiss deputy Gates Shaklee, who recently accepted a position with the Delta County Sheriff's Office, have provided firearms, TAZER and other training. That is a void that needs to be filled, said Ferguson. The application deadline is this Friday.

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