Criminal activity rises in Cheney
April — June increase ends period of steady reduction in reports
Cheney crime reports took an upswing in the April – June timeframe, enough so that overall the city is 6.5 percent ahead of where it was this time last year, ending a year and a half trend that had seen reports dropping each month.
So far through 2014, 303 criminal activity reports have been filled in 11 categories as compared to 286 through June 2013. Most notable is a 34 percent increase in assaults (41 compared to 27), a nearly 29 percent surge in domestic violence (85 compared to 63) and a virtual doubling of restraining orders from seven to 13.
“The violent crime is there,” Cheney Police Department Cmdr. Rick Campbell said.
The increases are a turnaround from activity through the first three months of 2014, with the exception of domestic violence, which has increased each month since Feb. 1. The increase in assaults has contributed to the department running 220.4 percent over budget in overtime funding since several incidents led to officer injuries that required time off, forcing management to bring in officers from other shifts to cover for the absences, along with regular absences due to training, vacations and illness.
According to the department’s Monthly Activity Report (MAR) for June, the highest number of reportable crimes took place in May with 64, while the lowest has been January’s 35. Also up are motor vehicle thefts, eight so far this year compared to four in 2013.
Two categories continuing to drop are burglary and thefts, down 17.6 (34 to 28) and 5.36 (112 to 106) percent. The sharpest decline has come in drug offenses, down from 20 through the first six months of 2013 to just two so far this year.
“A lot of that I think has to do with (Initiative) 502,” Campbell said, referring to the 2012 voter-approved initiative legalizing marijuana.
Campbell said occasionally officers see other, harder drugs than marijuana. As Spokane police increase their crackdown on drug use downtown, particularly around the Spokane Transit Authority Plaza, Campbell said they are anticipating a possible increase in that kind of activity in Cheney, although it hasn’t been seen yet.
Calls for service continue to increase, up 12.74 percent (4,112 to 3,588) while reports have dropped almost 6.10 percent (570 to 607). Again, May was the month with the highest number of calls at 800, and was second highest in reports at 107.
Misdemeanor and felony arrests are down 20.86 and 22.53 percent. Traffic warnings and contacts are also down significantly as are citations, which had doubled through the first three months. Campbell attributes the decline to the increase in calls for service since these place officers at homes and apartments rather than patrolling streets.
“There’s less time to do (traffic enforcement),” he said.
Total computer aided dispatch calls also continue to increase, up almost 18 percent with the ratio of Cheney to Eastern Washington University calls running about normal, 56 percent to 44 percent. Finally, Cheney personnel have been spending more time on warrant and probation paperwork (39 percent and 29 percent) through the first six months of 2014 than on no contact orders (down 11 percent) and data entry (down 51 percent).
As for budgets, the department’s $522,000, 2014 communications budget is at 48.6 percent expenditures with 50 percent of the year elapsed while the $2.62 million budget is at 49.8 percent. While sharp overages in overtime, building maintenance (65.9 percent) and fuel (67.4) are concerns Campbell sees more potential problems on the horizon.
“We have two major bills coming in December,” Campbell said, referring to information technology license renewals.
“When we pay those, we’ll be over (budget),” he added.
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.