Good Question: Is crime on the rise in Bonneville County?
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IDAHO FALLS — Officer Earl Laughter III opened fire on Shane McVey when McVey ignored the officer’s instructions and allegedly displayed a weapon during an incident in Idaho Falls January 23.
McVey was taken to the hospital and later pronounced dead, but the location remained blocked off for several hours after the 22-minute ordeal.
This situation, along with three other high-profile crimes that occurred the same week, had many of you asking whether crime was increasing in Idaho Falls.
I decided to look into this for this week’s Good Question.
It’s important to note, first and foremost, that the question of whether crime is increasing or decreasing is broad. There is no way to definitively answer the question one way or the other for all types of crime.
For today’s purposes, I will focus on high-profile crimes, or what a report from Idaho State Police calls ‘Group A crimes.’
“These crimes include murder, negligent manslaughter, rape and sodomy. These are the ones that tend to end up in news media reports,” ISP Public Information Officer Tim Marsano told me.
Marsano is quick to add that he is not suggesting ‘Group B’ crimes, such as bad checks, curfew, loitering, vagrancy, etc., are not serious.
“But these are certainly less serious than murder, rape, kidnapping, etc.,” he said.
The latest crime data for the state of Idaho is for 2016. The Crime in Idaho 2016 Report indicates 85,089 ‘Group A’ crimes were reported in Idaho that year.
This number represents a 5.4-percent increase from 2015 ‘Group A’ offenses.
Crimes against property, according to the report, made up 52 percent of the ‘Group A’ crimes reported in 2016, with larceny/theft offenses making up 48 percent of that category.
This data was compiled from reports received by police departments and sheriff’s offices across the state.
How do these numbers compare with Bonneville County?
Bonneville County saw a decrease in ‘Group A’ crimes during 2016, according to the same report. The county received 5,794 reports, which is a 2 percent decline from 2015.
Holly Cook, IFPD public information officer, says this decrease in ‘Group A’ crimes is the result of a decrease in the population.
The population in Bonneville County decreased by more than 14,000 people in 2016. Data provided by IFPD shows the population dropped from 125,909 in 2015 to 111,897 in 2016.
Crimes against property, according to Cook, also made up the majority of offenses reported for ‘Group A’ in 2016. Sixty-six percent of arrests made in this category were for larceny/theft offenses.
“If you look at the crimes in this category — robbery, burglary, theft, arson, destruction of property — a lot of people committing these types of crimes are caught in the act. That is why (larceny/theft) offenses result in the most arrests in this category,” Cook says.
Is there an increase in crime at certain times of year?
EastIdahoNews.com seemed to report a higher than usual amount of crime stories during the 2017 holiday season. One man was killed in Bannock County, for instance, during an officer-involved shooting. This made me wonder whether police see seasonal spikes in certain types of crime.
“The leadership team of the Idaho Falls Police Department noted the following types of crimes typically increase during the following times,” Cook wrote in an email. “Increased crime, in general, when the temperature increases for a longer period.”
Cook said juvenile crime increases during summer months when school is not in session. The police department also reports an increase in disturbance calls around the 4th of July holiday.
“Drugs know no season – meaning drug crimes are year-round,” Cook states.
The crime rate in the city of Idaho Falls, Cook says, is significantly lower than the state averages.
“Part of the reason for the low level of crime in our area is due to the effectiveness of our law enforcement agencies.”