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Crime rate drops in Sandy

Police chief thinks 2006 will see an increase in crime

Violent crimes dropped by more than 37 percent in the city of Sandy between 2004 and 2005, and property crimes decreased by more than 15 percent, according to Sandy Police Department reports.

The figures were released this week as part of the FBI's annual Crime in the United States report, which details crime statistics for the nation as well as individual states, counties and cities. Nearly 17,000 law enforcement agencies voluntarily participated in the report.

In all of the FBI's eight crime categories - murder/non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson - Sandy showed a reduction of incidents between 2004 and 2005.

Larger cities in Oregon and Southwest Washington also reported overall fewer crimes. Portland saw decreases in seven of the eight crime categories, with an increase in forcible rape. Eugene saw increases only in murder/non-negligent manslaughter and larceny-theft. Salem, like Sandy, saw decreases in all eight areas, and Vancouver, Wash., saw increases only in robbery.

Nationally, there was an overall increase of 2.3 percent in the volume of violent crime and a decrease of 1.5 percent in the volume of property crime.

'Anytime you have a reduction of crime, obviously that's a good thing,' Sandy Police Chief Harold Skelton said.

Mayor Linda Malone agreed.

'Our police must be doing a wonderful job,' she said. 'I always feel safe walking on the streets of Sandy.'

The chief didn't rest on the report's laurels for long. He said the city's numbers might not be so positive next year.

Thus far this year, Skelton said, the department's total number of cases is 150 higher than it was this time last year. 'That's normally the number of cases we take in a month,' Skelton said. 'So we're about a month ahead of where we were last year.'

An increased number of cases undoubtedly will show an increase in crime citywide, Skelton said. He said this year's bloated caseload could be attributed to a number of factors.

'We're going to have a lot higher numbers this year than we did last year,' Skelton said, 'simply because when you have more officers on the street, you're going to take action on more crimes and your numbers are going to go up. You can have one officer, but he can only do so much, and everything else is going to slide.'

The Sandy Police Department has two more officers on the street now than it did this time last year.

Another possible reason for the increase in cases is that newer officers are more likely to write reports than more experienced personnel.

'They may document something when another officer wouldn't, so somebody can look at what they're doing and make sure they're on track with their decision making,' he noted.

This year Skelton said he has specifically noticed a spike in the number of Department of Human Services referrals, which includes neglect, child abuse and other general child welfare issues.

'We're seeing a lot more of that than in the past,' he said.

Skelton said that while it's nice that the city has had a decrease in violent crime, he knows that in a small town like Sandy, which has violent crimes in the single digits, the numbers can change in an instant.

'We could have one or two armed robberies, and then the stats would show we had a 60-percent increase.'

But he said a jump in violent crime isn't characteristic of the town, at least for now. 'We don't have a lot of stranger-to-stranger violent crime to begin with,' Skelton said. 'It's not a big problem with us like it is in the bigger cities.'

Crime in Sandy: 2004 vs. 2005

2004

Murder/non-negligent manslaughter: 0 cases

Forcible rape: 5

Robbery: 3

Aggravated assault: 4

Burglary: 42

Larceny-theft: 292

Motor vehicle theft: 36

Arson: 2

2005

Murder/non-negligent manslaughter: 0 cases

Forcible rape: 1

Robbery: 1

Aggravated assault: 3

Burglary: 31

Larceny-theft: 256

Motor vehicle theft: 28

Arson: 0