Amid ‘Stay at Home’ orders, Craig, Moffat County law enforcement seeing less crime locally
When the novel coronavirus first hit Colorado and started to spread quickly, a judge-ordered mandate to release non-violent criminals from Moffat County Public Safety Center had the community concerned that crime would pick up locally.
Then, Governor Jared Polis issued a stay at home order, which shortly thereafter corresponded with an increase in vehicle break-ins in the City of Craig. Those vehicles were left unlocked and had the community speculating that this was only the beginning of the increase in crime within the county limits.
So far, through three weeks of the stay at home order, crime reports are down across the board, according to the Craig Police Department and the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office.
According to Sheriff KC Hume, from March 26 to April 14, in comparison to the same time period from 2019, Moffat County Sheriff’s Office calls for service are down 10 percent, while crime reports during the same time period are down 31 percent.
That said, Moffat County Sheriff’s Office saw a recent string of break-ins over the weekend near Hamilton. Those incidents are still under investigation.
“Prior to that string, no, we’re not seeing an increase in calls or crime,” Sheriff Hume said. “Our numbers are down. We’ve responded to more disturbance calls, which are non-criminal. That may be more attributed to the state of affairs we’re in with this Stay at Home order; it may play a part in that.”
When it comes to the city of Craig, the police force has seen a 1 percent increase in calls for service compared to last year around the same time. Of the 973 calls Craig Police responded to in the last month or so, 511 of those calls – roughly 53 percent – have fallen under the 9-1-1 hang-up, animal complaint, suspicious article/person/vehicle, traffic stop, or civil problem categories.
“I can’t say that we’ve seen a huge increase in calls,” Craig Police Captain Bill Leonard said. “We’ve seen an increase in calls from people just being sheltered in place; I think that’s caused some stress for people. There for awhile once this first started we had some car burglaries, but those seem to have slowed.
“I’m not seeing an increase in crime, per say, but we’re seeing an increase in calls in general right now,” Capt. Leonard added. “It certainly has to do with people being cooped up at home, you know. We’re coming off of a long, hard winter and it’s now finally spring. People are just wanting to get out and do things and get back to life as normal, and I think that stress to get back to normal is building. Overall though, we haven’t seen an increase in particular crime.”
Arrests have slowed too locally, but that largely has to do with the 14th Judicial District’s order to keep numbers low within the jails inside the district amid COVID-19 concerns.
“There’s only certain crimes we can arrest for,” Capt. Leonard said. “That’s from a judge’s order; we’re really under tight restrictions on what crimes we can arrest on and what we can’t arrest on. There’s very few crimes we can arrest on and send somebody to jail.
“We’re writing more citations that arresting people at this point,” Capt. Leonard added.
Should the Stay at Home order drag on and the economy not open back up, there is a concern that crime could certainly increase locally as financial struggles grow, according to Capt. Leonard.
While numbers are down, Sheriff Hume was quick to point out that it doesn’t mean law enforcement is working less.
“The message I would say is that with the Sheriff’s Office, Craig PD, and Colorado State Patrol, we’re still out there patrolling like we normally would,” Sheriff Hume said. “We’re all over the county trying to keep our residents safe.”
During his monthly report to City Council Tuesday night, Craig Police Chief Jerry DeLong added that Craig Police currently has officers patrolling local stores such as City Market, Walgreens and Walmart during high-traffic hours.
“Businesses sure do appreciate it, and it gives us some exposure,” Chief DeLong said. “We’ve been downtown a few times too, so we’re just keeping in touch with the community.”
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