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Technology helps track crime

(By Jami Badershall)

Crime increased in Cody during 2002, according to the Cody Police Department's annual report.

But figures may not be fully accurate, Cody Police Chief Dan Kelsey says.

"In June 2001, we went to a new records management system so we could record the Cody Police Department's, Park County Sheriff's Office and Powell Police Department's incidents together," he said. "With the new system, we have greater accuracy in tracking. Some things we weren't recording in the past because it was labor intensive to be done manually are done by computer now. All traffic stops and even warnings are tracked now and tallied."

In 2001, the department recorded 9,176 incidents. In 2002, that jumped to 11,040, a difference of 1,864. Of that difference, 1,490 incidents occurred January-June 2002.

Kelsey does not know if the increase in the number of assaults, aggravated assaults and larceny can be attributed to the new system.

"I just don't know," he said. "It may be the way it's classified in the computer. We could be comparing apples and oranges. Next year we will have two full years with this system to compare."

Aggravated assaults jumped from 4 in 2001 to 34 in 2002. Assaults went from 83 to 106 and larceny from 246 to 290.

There were no murders, three rapes, two robberies, 27 burglaries, seven auto thefts and no arson.

In 2001, there was one murder, three rapes, four robberies, 33 burglaries and 12 auto thefts.

"Larcenies were up about 15 percent, but one or two incidents can skew the numbers," Kelsey said. "On one Sunday we had 12 reports of theft. We caught the people involved. Sometimes you catch one person and solve them all."

The drop in robberies, burglaries and auto theft may be related to drug use, Kelsey said.

"Our drug arrests were down a little from the year before."

With the number of cases handled by the police department, Kelsey says the officers and detectives are stretched to the maximum.

"If you talk to the detectives, they're swamped with investigations of embezzlement, check fraud and sexual assault.

"We get new cases all the time. It seems as though we generate a high number of cases for a small town."

The downside of the new, improved computer system is that officers must be at the computer more often and on the streets less.

Reports need more information and much of officers' time is spent in interviews with witnesses.

"Other areas suffer, such as traffic control," Kelsey said. "The thing that suffers first is the area that the public is most aware of and would like us to stay on."

There are never less than two and as many as four officers on duty in a shift.

"We try to have four officers per shift but with vacations, training days and days off, we usually have two or three," Kelsey said. "In the past year we've had a few openings and when we hire a new officer they have 14 weeks of field training, meaning they're riding with the training officer. Two become one and we lose that visibility, that extra resource on the street."

The department has 18 sworn officers and one reserve. Of those 18, 13 are in the patrol division, including the school resource officer.

"Our call load is increasing," Kelsey said. "Things seem to be more active. There's more going on."

In the coming year, Kelsey's attention will turn to creating a drug officer position.

"Now we try to do it as we can with people from the patrol division and we've done pretty well," he said. "But I'd like to see an officer in a full-time drug position. It'll be an investigative position."

Currently the department must wait for the Department of Criminal Investigation or Drug Enforcement Agency to come to Cody to assist in major drug cases. With a drug officer, much of that work can be done immediately, in-house.

The annual report is available to the public at the law enforcement center.

Source: www.codyenterprise.com

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