Craig Police Department's annual report yields surprising results

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— Year 2012 was an interesting one for the Craig Police Department, according to statistics and headlines.

In addition to several officers receiving numerous internal commendations, Sgt. Corey Wagner, Cpl. Mike Edwards, Officer Lance Eldridge and Detective Jen Kenney were recognized by local and state associations.

Wagner, Edwards and Eldridge were recognized by the Colorado Law Enforcement Officers Association with Officer of the Year awards for their efforts in February 2012 to remove a Craig resident from a burning home. Edwards also received the Colorado Police Protective Association’s annual Life Saving Award for the same incident.

Kenney was recognized as the 2012 Craig Citizen of the Year, an award that recognizes locals for their contributions to the community.

Although it’s not often that so many police officers are recognized by some of the state’s most prominent police associations, Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta said Wednesday that he wasn’t at all surprised by the recognition.

“There’s a lot of good stuff our people did last year,” Vanatta said. “I think that speaks to the caliber of our officers and the staff we have here.”

And 2012 was just as busy as the rest.

Although the number of calls for service dropped to 14,486, a 13 percent decrease over 2011, criminal calls increased by 13 percent, according to CPD’s 2012 year-end report.

The increase in criminal calls not only resulted in a 4 percent increase in adult arrests compared to 2011, but also added to the amount of hours officers spent on investigations, Vanatta said.

A big reason for the increase in criminal activity stems from arguably the two most disturbing trends facing the community — alcohol abuse and domestic violence.

The two often go hand in hand, Vanatta said.

In 2012, officers responded to 312 reports of domestic violence and made 179 domestic violence-related arrests.

Although CPD doesn’t compile hard data, Vanatta said he wouldn’t be surprised if more than 90 percent of those domestic violence disputes were fueled by alcohol.

“I think alcohol abuse and misuse is a community problem, especially for domestics and assaults. Kidnapping and intimidation offenses were also way up over last year and all of those are domestic violence related.”

CPD’s year-end report also provides an update on the work of the All Crimes Enforcement Team. ACET is a Yampa Valley narcotics task force composed of one officer each from the Craig and Steamboat Springs police departments, and the Moffat County and Routt County sheriff’s offices.

Last year, ACET officers investigated 14 drug distribution cases that yielded the purchase or seizure of 94.5 grams of methamphetamine, 3.4 grams of cocaine, almost 68 grams of heroin, and various prescription drugs.

Vanatta acknowledged those drug seizures may seem light considering the community investment, but he said the story behind the statistics is two-fold.

Although ACET officers began 14 drug investigations in 2012, they were not able to make an arrest on one of them until just last week, Vanatta said, and that bust resulted in the seizure of more than $30,000 in cocaine.

The second reason cited by Vanatta is that ACET officers were asked to help the Drug Enforcement Agency in its investigation of former Craig doctor Joel Miller. ACET officers spent hundreds of man-hours during the investigation, which remains ongoing, according to the CPD report.

“If you just go by the numbers, it does seem light,” Vanatta said. “However, there’s more to it than just numbers. Drug dealers are free to travel throughout the valley, which is why we need a task force, and just having that presence has made an impact on the local drug trade.”

To view the 2012 year-end report in its entirety, visit www.craigpolice.org.

Joe Moylan can be reached at 970-875-1794 or jmoylan@craigdailypress.com

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