The Utah County Sheriff's Department investigated more serious crimes in 1990 than in the previous five years.
"Even though crimes are up, they are down 10 percent since 1985. So I think Utah County is still a pretty good place to live as far as crime goes," Sheriff Dave Bateman said.When Bateman took office in 1985, he vowed to reduce serious crime in the county. Within two years, the crime rate decreased 33 percent. However, the rate is up the past two years, and that has Bateman concerned.
Bateman attributes the increase in crime to the increase in service calls. Even though no deputies were added to the department last year, service calls increased more than 25 percent. Deputies must prioritize their time and can't spend as much time on enforcement.
"As sheriff, it's always been my priority to improve or maintain the quality of life we enjoy from a crime standpoint. And I'm concerned because many of the things we've been able to do we are no longer capable of doing. We've done just about everything we can think of to keep crime down with the manpower we have," Bateman said.
The crime that increased the most last year was rape. However, Utah County's sexual assault rate is still lower than state and national averages. And, Bateman said, last year's trend is not carrying over into this year. So far the county has had only one rape case.
Bateman said there is no explanation for the last year's jump in sexual assault cases. Most rapes reported involved people who knew each other and occurred in situations involving alcohol and drugs."We don't see cases very often where people are abducted and taken out and assaulted," he said.
County burglaries also rose sharply during 1990. Bateman attributes the increase to a burglary ring whose primary targets were rural homes in Salt Lake and Utah counties. Investigators recently arrested two suspects, and the ring is no longer operating.
"It's been a long time since we've had that kind of a group operating around here. So unless someone else steps in and takes over for them, I assume we will see burglaries go down," he said.
As always, burglaries and thefts were the most difficult crimes for detectives to solve. Only about 32 percent of reported cases were cleared. Bateman said residents can help detectives solve more cases by making an inventory of valuable items and marking them with an identifiable trait.
"We've got an evidence room full of things that we keep for a number of years and then send it to the surplus store because we can never find a victim for it," he said.
Bookings into the county jail increased more than 32 percent in 1990. An advisory committee is looking at either building a new jail or expanding the existing one, but Bateman said the county needs to do something in the interim. The lack of holding space is a problem. "On weekends we have officers backed up waiting to process people. This creates officer safety problems and leaves us vulnerable for police brutality situations," he said.
Bateman said more space could be made available by relocating some of the jail's office personnel in other county buildings. He also said the jail needs an increase in staff to handle the increased jail population.
"There are a number of things we need to do now."
The 5-year crime trend for unincorporated areas
Five-year crime comparison:
1990 1989 1988 1987 1986
Homicide 2 1 0 1 1
Rape 13 3 2 2 2
Robbery 0 2 0 3 0
Assault 57 44 26 28 36
Burglary 97 71 46 85 75
Theft 209 240 201 213 244
Vehicle theft 20 23 21 16 23
Totals 398 384 296 348 381