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Crime rate is steady

by Andy Bourelle

Douglas County’s crime rate did not drastically increase or decrease from 1996 to 1997; however, the amount of crime has significantly decreased since earlier in the 1990s.

“I think we’re doing really well, without having any major incidents at all,” said Sheriff Ron Pierini, “and I think a big contributing factor to that is community support.”

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office released crime statistics earlier in the week, which are used by the U.S. Department of Justice to tally national figures. The information reveals the number of crimes reported in seven major areas.

Douglas County showed an increase in crimes reported only in the areas of larceny and sexual assault. In 1996, instances of larceny were reported 652 times; in 1997, it was reported 697 times. In 1996, sexual assault was reported 12 times; in 1997, 13 times.

The county received three reports of arson in both 1996 and 1997.

The remaining four categories revealed decreases in criminal reports. Robberies decreased from 15 to seven. Burglaries decreased from 196 to 183. Rapes dropped from three reports to one. One murder was reported in 1996, none in 1997.

However, the decrease in crime reports does not mean the sheriff’s office has nothing to do. Total arrests increased from 2,026 to 2,531, and calls for service increased from 28,425 to 32,974.

“The number of crime incidents is pretty much status quo, but our office is still extremely busy,” Pierini said.

One reason the sheriff’s office is able to respond to more calls is a new method of writing police reports which has been incorporated. Instead of writing reports for every call, deputies now write reports only for crime-related incidents.

“That keeps officers out on the street and increases our response time,” Pierini said.

n Previous years.

Although 1996 and 1997 statistics are similar to numbers in 1991, the county saw somewhat of a spike in reported crimes in 1993 and 1994. Burglaries reported were 485 and 642 respectively; rapes, five and four; robberies, 23 and 15; larceny, 727 and 654; and arson, 13 and eight. Total arrests exceeded 3,200 in both 1993 and 1994, more than 700 than in 1997.

Pierini said he was not sure why the county showed an increase in those years but said the county has made several changes in recent years to make law enforcement more efficient.

He attributed the county’s three substations, which opened about three years ago, with helping deputies. For example, a deputy patrolling the Gardnerville Ranchos before would have to return to Minden each time he or she needed to write a report. With the substations, however, the reports can be completed in the patrol area, not wasting deputies’ valuable time.

Another significant factor is the sheriff’s office focus on community-oriented policing. Implemented about three years ago, the philosophy is to open up communication with residents and to be more proactive in finding solutions to problems rather than simply reacting to crimes.

“We need the eyes and the ears out in the community to help us do our job, and I think they’re doing that,” Pierini said. “I think we have a strong rapport with the community.”

Another reason Pierini believes crimes have decreased is deterrence.

“With the open communication, and the efficiency of our staff making good, valid arrests, I believe that has to be a deterrent,” Pierini said. “I think the success rate of our investigative and patrol divisions is a deterrent for criminal activity. And I think our staff has just done a superb job.”

n Juvenile crime.

The statistics used for the national comparisons include adult and juvenile crime.

Looked at separately, juvenile crime in 1997 also has not changed drastically from 1996. Total arrests decreased from 273 to 227. Juvenile burglary, larceny and assault arrests remained about the same. Thefts decreased. Drug use or possession among juveniles increased from 27 arrests in 1996 to 38 in 1997.

The sheriff’s office tries to, and will continue to, keep closely involved with the schools, Pierini said, to stop problems before they start.

“If we can deter crime before it happens, that’s what we should be doing,” Pierini said.

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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