Craig Last year was unique in one respect for the Craig Police Department - it included two complex investigations that consumed resources and hundreds of staff hours.
"Hundreds of hours of investigative time was committed (in 2007) to a very complicated homicide case as well as the arson fire that destroyed the Country Mall," Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta wrote in the department's 2007 annual report.
"I am particularly proud of the effort all our staff made in investigating a very complicated homicide case that drained our normal resources, while still accomplishing most of our strategic objectives. The teamwork demonstrated by not only our employees, but those of other agencies we work with is exceptional."
Vanatta distributed the annual report - a comprehensive analysis and statistical review of the previous year - to the Craig City Council on Tuesday night.
He said he couldn't remember a previous year that included two major crime investigations such as the Cynthia Hankins' murder that began in June 2007 and the arson, which occurred five months later, in November.
"I don't think there's been two of that magnitude," he said.
The Hankins investigation resulted in an arrest - the victim's husband, Terry Hankins, is charged with first-degree murder, has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for a December jury trial - while the Country Mall fire remains open.
"Craig has no immunity from the violent crimes that are most often associated with metropolitan areas," Vanatta wrote. He said the "tireless efforts" of a joint homicide investigation with the Moffat County Sheriff's Office and 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office entailed more than 30 search warrants served in two different states.
"What doesn't stand out (in the report) is the compassion shown by officers," the police chief reported. "In particular, Detective Jen Kenney spent hours communicating and working with the victim's family. Her commitment to assuring that the family was kept informed, even of the gravest news, was extraordinary."
But, the cases were just two in a year Vanatta described as "busy, yet successful."
Among the highlights in the report are:
• Officers responded to 17,963 calls for service, a 6-percent increase from 2006. In the past seven years, calls for service have increased by 69 percent, the police chief said.
• Included in those calls for service were about 1,900 criminal calls. The criminal calls are divided into Group A offenses - such as burglary, vandalism/criminal mischief, theft, assault, robbery and sex offenses - and Group B offenses - disorderly conduct, trespassing and liquor law violations.
• Accomplishing strategic goals, which includes "dramatically" improving communications with the 14th Judicial District Attorney's Offices, beginning replacement of in-car cameras with modern digital technology, developing and implementing new sexual assault protocols and establishing three Neighborhood Watch groups in the city.
The latter is an initiative the Police Department would like to see expanded.
"We would really like to see more of those" Neighborhood Watch groups, Vanatta said. "We'd like to encourage those."
• Maintained an "above average," 49 percent clearance rate for the department. Police detectives maintained a 57 percent clearance rate.
Vanatta said his department's clearance rate is on par with national averages.
"I'm happy with it," he said. "It was 44 percent last year, so it went up five percent."
• The year saw a "dramatic increase" in adult arrests - 524 in 2006 compared to 654 in 2007, equaling 130 more arrests and a 25 percent increase. Adults arrests have increased six of the last seven years, according to the annual report.
• After a one-year decrease, drug incidents again rose. From 2001 to 2005, drug incidents increased more than 200 percent. The police department hoped a small reduction in 2006 would continue, Vanatta said, but reports of drug/narcotic violations and drug equipment violation increased in 2007 by 14 and 19 reports, respectively.
"Illegal drug use continues to be a major issue in our community," he wrote.
The rise in calls for service have increased activity for patrol officers. According to the report, officers handled 1,382 calls for service per officer in 2007, equaling 565 more calls per year than in 2001, when the number was 817 calls per officer.
The Police Department has 24 officers and six civilian staffers. The rise in calls for service and the administrative requirements involved in those calls has prompted the department to look at hiring more support staff, Vanatta said.
The department is currently in the process of developing objectives for this year. While the objectives are not complete, Vanatta said public feedback dictates that traffic and drug enforcement remain "at the top of the list."
"Those two areas are obviously going to stay a focus for where our resources go," he said.
Vanatta wrote in the report that the department's accomplishments and public service are a credit to officers and support staff.
"I personally express my appreciation to all our employees - they are the reason for our success," the police chief wrote. "It has been said that 'teamwork means that we share a common ideal and embrace a common goal. Regardless of our differences, we strive shoulder to shoulder, confident in one another's faith, trust and commitment. In the end, teamwork can be summed up in five short words - we believe in each other.'
"I do not believe you can find a better example of this than that provided by the fine men and women of this department. I am extremely proud to be affiliated with such an extraordinary group of professional people."
Vanatta concluded that "many challenges remain" for the police department, citing specifically the "local war against methamphetamine use" and the "resultant impacts on our community."
"We are all facing critical challenges which are changing our community and our nation," he wrote. "The members of the Craig Police Department are excited to be actively engaged in working with people at all levels to enhance our quality of life and protect the public from all criminal threats."