AROUND THE STATEArrests for assault in Moab hit a 10-year peak in 1990, particularly among juveniles, according to the annual police report.
At the same time, arrests of juveniles for burglary decreased by 140 percent, adults arrested for theft decreased by 87 percent, and no one in Moab has been charged with homicide for years.Compared to cities of comparable size - about 3,900 people - Moab is in good shape, said Police Chief Alan West.
"At least in the real serious categories, we're doing pretty well. Most of our crimes here are generally property crimes, as ooposed to personal crimes," West said.
The Moab Police Department last year logged a total 79 arrests of juveniles and adults in cases of simple and aggravated assault, accounting for a 107 percent increase over arrests in the same category the previous 12 months, according to the annual report.
Reported assaults were at the lowest rate over the 10-year period in 1982. That year, 19 arrests were made, records show.
Nine juveniles were arrested on various assault charges, including aggravated asault, in 1990. That was a 350 percent increase over the previous year. Twelve adults were arrested on assault charges. That included three arrests for aggravated assault, a 50 percent increase over 1989.
West attributed the increase in assaults to hard times, the changing complexion of the local population, and - to a lesser degree - newly enacted domestic violence laws.
"We've had somewhat of an increase in the population of the lower socio-economic groups, for service jobs," West said.
"And I think there are two aspects to look at: that maybe assault is reported more often by that group, and a small percentage of the increase was caused by the new domestic violence law which took effect in October."
West said about 10 percent of the assault cases were handled differently last year than before, because of changes in the law that gave police greater responsibility for filing charges in cases of domestic violence.
"In the past, people had to contact an attorney and request that charges be filed, and now we make arrests in those cases where we have probable cause," West explained.
"We had eight or nine assaults that were prosecuted and reported pursuant to that, which would not have been handled otherwise."
The police chief said he believes the depressed economy is also reflected in the increased assault rate. "I think there's additional stress to people in their lives, so we get additional assaults that are inappropriate responses . . . to financial situations," he said.
"And I think society's getting more violent just in general."
West said simple assaults account for the majority of the arrests, but the rate of aggravated assault was a little higher than in 1989, mostly because of juveniles getting their hands on weapons.
"These involved kids with knives and guns, groups and individuals, brandishing firearms during arguments," the police chief said.
"Up to this point, they've been threatening with them. They haven't really been utilized," he added.
West said he does not consider last year's assault rate alarming, nor does he expect the upward trend to contine. Only four arrests have been made on assault charges to date this year, compared to 12 in the first two months of 1990.
The largest number of arrests for assault in a single month last year was 12 in August, the hottest month of the year. Serious crimes aside, tourism appears to have had a significant impact on the police department the past year.
West said officer response to requests for non-criminal services such as medical assists, helping tourists get into accidentally locked vehicles, and emergency messages consumed a lot of time, and things may have to change if the trend continues.
"It is noticeable," West said. "It's to the point where, in years past we didn't even track some of those items, but we started having so many, we started wondering what kind of impact does this have on the department. When you count them . . . it does take a lot of officers' time."
West said the police department has always unlocked people's vehicles for them as a public service, because locksmiths have not been readily available.
"We don't anticipate not unlocking vehicles unless it gets completely out of hand, but there's a possibility of turning it over to locksmiths," he said. "Right now, we're handling it OK."