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Powell, WY

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Crime steady in 2010

"About like last year.”

That’s Powell Police Chief Tim Feathers’ overall assessment of crime in 2010, as compared to 2009.

The Powell Police Department’s recently-released 2010 Annual Report shows the number of violent crimes dropped slightly.

There were 65 reported assaults in 2010, down from 72 the prior year. Ten were aggravated assaults — felony offenses involving a weapon or intent to do serious injury. There were also 13 sex crimes in 2010, including two rapes. There were no robberies. In 2009, there had been 11 aggravated assaults, five rapes and two robberies.

Feathers said last year’s violent crime numbers seem in line with comparably-sized cities.

“I don’t see any particular dangers and risks to the community,” he said.

Property crimes rose slightly in 2010, with 210 reported thefts, stolen vehicles or burglaries 2010. That was up from 199 incidents in 2009.

Powell’s property crime rate apparently remained above average for communities its size.

“The bulk of the crime is property crime,” said Feathers.

He said many of those incidents could have been prevented through common sense steps, such as by locking doors and vehicles and keeping valuable items out of sight.

“We could make a huge dent on the overall crime rate in Powell just by very easy security measures — just by not leaving property out where it’s vulnerable,” Feathers said.

He said citizens taking those steps to protect their property “will be way more effective than anything we as police can do.”

Feathers encouraged residents to call the department if they would like help or information about securing their property.

The annual report also says cases of property destruction rose, from 91 instances in 2009 to 112 last year.

However, many statistics from 2010 show decreases: the total number of citations issued for traffic violations and criminal offenses dropped by more than 38 percent — from 1,398 citations in 2009 to 860 in 2010. Further, while felony arrests doubled to 69, misdemeanor arrests dropped by more than a third, to 532.

Feathers said the drops do not mean Powell residents were more law-abiding in 2010 than past years, but rather reflects the fact there were fewer officers on the streets.

One officer left in June for a deployment with the National Guard. Another officer left the department in September and, because of the city’s hiring freeze, has not been replaced. Overall, officer work hours dropped by about 15 percent compared to 2009.

As a result, officer-initiated actives also dipped. For example, the department made about 1,300 fewer traffic stops (1,662 stops for a 44 percent drop), 60 less walk-throughs of Powell bars and 200 fewer building checks than it did in 2009.

However, Feathers said the things that would indicate to him the lower number of officers is threatening public safety — such as an increase in car crashes or public disturbances — are actually “all holding pretty steady or maybe even coming down a bit.”

There were 233 reported motor vehicle crashes, which is in line with past years. As in previous years, the No. 1 cause of crashes was drivers backing up.

Feathers said the department can handle the staffing shortage for a while without problems, though over an extended period of time, “you may see some of those things pick up,” he said.

Feathers said he hopes the department will be able to fill its empty officer post when the new fiscal year begins in July.

As part of its law enforcement strategy, Feathers said the police department is placing an emphasis on keeping tabs on individuals on probation for prior criminal offenses.

Feathers said national studies have indicated a single-digit percentage of the U.S. population commits between a half and two-thirds or more of the nation’s crime.

Feathers said police conduct random probation checks and make it a priority to serve warrants on repeat offenders.

When officers find probation violations, they’re reported to the county attorney’s office to seek a revocation.

“Let’s get them in front of the judge so the judge can deal with whatever the issue is,” Feathers said.

As of last month, there were 212 individuals with Powell addresses out on probation; most are on unsupervised probation for misdemeanor offenses.

The police department also is continuing to work on implementing data-gathering software into their daily operations.

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