DCSO records high crime clearance rate
Sheriff Ron Pierini called 1998 a “banner year,” after receiving the FBI Uniform Crime Report last week.
Pierini said statistics regarding the eight “index” crimes the FBI monitors show a clearance rate of 24.9 percent, up from 13.7 percent in 1997.
Index crimes are murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson.
The clearance rate is the percentage of crimes that are closed by arrest, paid restitution or are found to be untrue.
“This is the highest clearance rate I can remember. A lot of credit goes to patrol deputies. They are managing the case loads better and classifying the crimes to invest in the ones that there is a better chance of solving,” he said.
Pierini said he believes the 13.7 percent clearance rate for 1997 was the result of poor communication between the investigation division and records. He said if a crime was solved two months after it happened, often that was not communicated to the records department so they could list it as a cleared crime, Pierini said.
Pierini estimated the department had a clearance rate of about 22 or 23 percent in past years, but many cleared cases weren’t noted properly.
Although Douglas County reflects the downward trend the rest of the country is experiencing in index crimes – from a total of 981 crimes in 1997 to 881 – deputies are responding to more calls every year and other crimes, such as driving under the influence and domestic violence, are up.
Domestic violence situations are one of the most dangerous for police officers to walk into, he said, so at least a couple officers are always sent into a situation, Pierini said.
“We know it’s a high risk situation, so at least a couple officers to respond to it, get the story and see if there is any physical evidence. Officers have information pamphlets for resources. We’ve seen an upward climb in domestic violence for years,” he said.
Domestic violence arrests were up from 230 in 1997 to 257 in 1998.
Pierini said there is more knowledge of domestic violence and the laws surrounding it, resulting in a higher comfort level for people to call the police.
“When I started, we would go to a domestic violence scene and there was not much we could do unless the victim wanted to put the other person under arrest. Now officers can make an arrest if there is evidence and people know their rights. It has a lot to do with education,” Pierini said.
n Family Support Council. Of course, the Family Support Council keeps track of the number of people who come in to talk to them about domestic violence, and that is much higher.
Because Family Support keeps its statistics according to the fiscal year, they counted 1,825 contacts from July 1, 1997 to June 30, 1998 and 2,037 contacts from July 1, 1998 to June 30, 1999.
Caseworkers also counted how many people were provided shelter for overnight at a safe house in Douglas County or in shelters at South Lake Tahoe or elsewhere. From July 1, 1998 to June 30, 1999, the Family Support Council provided shelter for 100 nights, down from 210 nights the year before, according to domestic violence coordinators Becky Smokey and Lois Pruneau.
Smokey said Family Support works closely with law enforcement.
“We try to work with the DA’s office and the judges and police and they refer people to us,” she said. “We know there are more people out there that don’t report it. We have a very good rapport with our law enforcement. They help us in getting a place for a case worker to meet clients. We go to the substations out in the county every week and they provide office space for us.”
Smokey said the council is still half-way from its goal of building a domestic violence shelter in Douglas County. She said the crime statistics will probably go up once the shelter is operational because victims will have a safe place to go if they report the crime.
As it is now, women are taken to a shelter called Advocates to End Domestic Violence that serves Douglas, Carson City, Churchill and Lyon counties, in which victims can only stay for two weeks, whereas Family Support plans on allowing women to stay in the shelter for up to three months.
n DUI. Driving under the influence arrests are another crime in which tolerance has gone down and awareness has gone up, Pierini said. In 1998, the numbers of arrests reflected that as they increased to 262 from 238 the year before.
“The direction of communities is zero tolerance, and we are getting better reporting. What does help are cellular phones. It is very common for drivers to get on the phone and report if someone is driving erratically, and we take it very seriously and always respond,” he said.
With total calls going up every year, from 32,974 in 1997 to 36,943 in 1998, Pierini said the department is lacking in officers.
“The juvenile arrests are up and there are more calls for service. Domestic violence is up quite a bit and we are making more traffic stops. Those issues are tying up the deputies,” he said. “We looked at how many calls we get and how many we can handle now and decided we need five additional deputies.”
The DCSO recently applied for what will be the last of the federal COPS grants that provide the salaries for officers for three years.
He attributes the upswing in calls to the DCSO’s outreach to the community.
“We try to reach out and be really proactive. Getting community input is really important. Studies show the most important tool we have is not more officers on the street, but having the public comfortable to interact with them and to call in and report things they think are suspicious,” Pierini said.
He said new hotlines, like the *COP for those with ATT cellular phones to call in traffic violations and the 783-SAFE line for students to report student violence will also bring up the number of calls officers respond to.