Decrease in Cheney crime could be linked to increase in overtime
For second straight year, reports drop by over 12 percent in first quarter
Just as they did in the first quarter of 2013, crime numbers in Cheney continued to decline through the first three months of 2014. And while that's good news, the flipside may come in increased spending on overtime.
There have been 128 reports filed overall in the 11 criminal activity categories so far this year, compared to 148 in 2013, a decrease of 13.51 percent. That 2013 number was 12.42 percent less than the same time in 2012.
Together it represents an overall 24.26 percent decrease in crime reports over the last two years.
Most of the 11 activity categories, homicide, assaults, rapes, burglary, robbery, motor vehicle thefts, theft, drug offenses, criminal alcohol offenses, domestic violence and restraining orders, so far in 2014 are nearly at or quite a bit lower than 2013 numbers. Thefts were 25 percent below 2013 levels, although for the first two months of the year they were 41.66 percent below until the 20 reports in March virtually doubled the January-February totals of 21.
One category with a significant increase is domestic violence, up 21.12 over 2013. Seventeen of those 33 incidents, however, came in February when the temperatures slid into the teens and single digits, keeping people inside more and potentially creating opportunities for conflict.
Calls for service have shown a steady increase over the first three months of 2014 and are running 13.37 percent above 2013 calls. But, reports generated from those calls are down 18.18 percent from 286 to 234, despite 117 calls in March, double the amount of the first two months.
"Which tells me the guys are handling calls on the street without filing reports," Police Department Cmdr. Rick Campbell said.
That is a reflection of the changes Police Chief John Hensley instituted in the department after taking the helm in January 2012. Those changes include using a Community Policing and Problem Solving Philosophy (COPPS) that gives officers more latitude to handle problems in the field, utilizing technology to stay in the field longer and going to marked patrol cars for greater visibility.
That's also led to a decline in arrests, down 33.67 percent overall, with felony arrests down 75 percent from 16 to four.
Traffic enforcement is down slightly overall, although citations have more than doubled through the first three months of 2014, increasing from 41 in 2013 to 100 so far.
Computer-aided dispatch calls are up 23.17 percent, reflecting increases for both Cheney and Eastern Washington University police. Cheney still receives most of the calls, 56 percent.
Probation entries require most of the office paperwork time, 45 percent, as these filings are the most extensive, Campbell said. Warrant paperwork takes up 22 percent of the time, a sharp decline from the 119 percent increase last year over 2012 numbers, reflecting another Hensley measure to pick up people wanted for crimes faster and thereby reducing the opportunity to commit additional offenses.
All this work comes at a price, which now includes annually exceeding budgeted overtime. So far the department is at 128.6 percent of budgeted overtime for 2014, having spent $20,578.66 but budgeted annually for $16,000.
By contrast, the department was 114 percent of budgeted overtime through the first six months of 2013, and ended the year at 280.3 percent, $44,843.13. Those overtime amounts aren't only about covering for officers calling in sick, Campbell said, but reflect the need for training as well as officers going to court on days off, family leave and incidents requiring additional backup.
"We're at the point where we can no longer sacrifice safety for dollars," Campbell said. "It simply boils down to staffing."
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.