August 15, 2013 | Vol. 117 -- No. 17

Cheney crime drops almost 30 percent

Seasonal factors, incident resolutions lead to first summer lull in 4-5 years

Halfway through 2013 the Cheney Police Department is seeing something they haven’t witnessed in a few years – a summer time lull in crime.

Through June, overall crime reports in the city had dropped 28.8 percent compared to the same time in 2012, with all 11 areas of reportable offenses showing decreases. Police Cmdr. Rick Campbell said it was something they hadn’t seen in 4-5 years, and attributed it to a couple of factors, the first being fewer people in town due to vacations and extended weekend trips – fewer people to commit crimes and fewer to report them.

While he hoped he wasn’t going to be proven prophetic, Campbell said he expected the reportable offenses numbers to swing up as people return home and potentially discover crimes had been committed or attempted.

“I’m expecting to see that, although I hope not to,” he said.

In particular, Campbell pointed to property crimes, usually one of the areas where high numbers can be expected. So far through June, thefts were down 27.7 percent, burglaries 30.6 percent and motor vehicle thefts down 77.7 percent.

Campbell also attributed some of this to people being more careful with their property, keeping garage doors closed, houses locked and removing personal belongings from vehicles left outside.

While reportable offenses declined, computer aided dispatch calls remained about the same at 22,356, 11 off last year’s numbers. Figures indicated while Cheney Police calls were down 8.3 percent to 13,113, calls to Eastern Washington University police were up 12.8 percent to 9,243.

Calls for service had dropped 231 to 3,588, with reports generated from those calls falling 128 to 607, compared to 735 through June 2012. Campbell said the difference between the call figures are one set indicates those received by dispatch, and the other are calls either received by the officers for services or contacts officers initiate themselves.

“Dispatch is busy,” Campbell said. “They’re sending them (officers) calls, but they’re (officers) not generating reports. That means the officers are able to handle it (calls) without generating reports.”

Finding other ways to resolve incidents is reflected in a reduction in arrests, with misdemeanor arrests down 20.7 percent and felonies down 38 percent. Traffic citations are also down, 194 compared to 300, while warnings are up, 1202 compared to 1,142.

And while the crime figures are one story, the department’s budget is another. With half the year gone the overall budget is at just 49.3 percent of where it should be, good news until one digs further.

“Overall it looks splendid,” Campbell said. “But look again at the line items.”

All six categories listed under “Department Budget Highlights” in the June report showed year-to-date expenditures above 50 percent, the lowest being supplies at 53.3 percent. Four were in the 58-66 percent range while both overtime funds, general and training, at 111.1 and 181.2 percent of budget.

Campbell said there are also some large payments such as licensing fees for department servers, leases and insurance that is scheduled to become due soon. He expressed concern about the line items above budget, particularly overtime, which the department tries its best to control and predict, but usually lies a couple large incidents requiring additional manpower – such as April’s multiple homicide at the Rosebrook Inn – from getting out of whack.

“All those are dings to the budget,” Campbell said. “Realistically, we’re probably close to 60 percent of the budget expended.”

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

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