DA’s caseload continues to drop | SummitDaily.com

DA’s caseload continues to drop

Reid Williams

BRECKENRIDGE – When crime statistics are down, the district attorney isn’t complaining. He’s surprised, but not complaining.

Fifth Judicial District Attorney Mike Goodbee this week released his mid-year report, a statistical portrait of cases handled in the past six months. Goodbee’s district comprises Summit, Eagle, Lake and Clear Creek counties. Across the district, caseload dropped significantly compared to the first six months of 2001, although some increases in specific crimes in some counties were alarming, Goodbee said.

“With the sole exception of a 60 percent increase in domestic violence cases in Clear Creek County, this is good news,” Goodbee said. “There’s a kind of declining momentum going on.”

Summit County’s prosecutors saw decreases in domestic violence cases, DUIs, felonies, misdemeanors and traffic cases. Juvenile cases equaled those in the first half of 2001, at 39. The district attorney’s office also received fewer reports of bad checks, and Goodbee said he was proud of the thousands of hours in contacts with crime victims and addressing their needs.

Although the DA’s caseload does not accurately account for all crime in Summit County, Goodbee took the decrease as a sign that criminal activity is on the ebb.

“The numbers here reasonably reflect law enforcement activity, which reasonably reflects crime in the area,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that crime is down.”

The decreases came as a surprise, Goodbee said. Anecdotal experience among prosecutors and law enforcement says that, in times of economic trouble, crimes such as DUIs and domestic violence are more prevalent, he said. “Crimes of frustration – but that didn’t happen.”

Goodbee speculated that economics might be at the root of Clear Creek County’s rising domestic violence cases.

The report also expressed concern about pay for young prosecutors. Goodbee, whose office’s budget is funded by the counties he serves, lost one Eagle County prosecutor this year to the allure of the Front Range and higher salaries. Goodbee compared his staff’s salaries to those of Front Range prosecutors, as well as other mountain government lawyers such as county attorneys, and found a 20 to 30 percent gap. Fifth Judicial District prosecutors start at about $37,500 a year, he said.

Another concern is homicides. Earlier this year, Goodbee and Assistant District Attorney Mark Hurlburt earned a murder conviction against Breckenridge resident Chuck Garrison. Eagle County also has two pending second-degree murder cases as well as the as-yet-unsolved murder of Keystone employee Melba Jean Ginther. Another murder in Clear Creek County is under investigation.

In summarizing Summit County’s caseload statistics, Goodbee credited the proactive law enforcement agencies.

“Summit’s always been proactive about identifying trouble areas and taking steps to adjust their enforcement,” Goodbee said. “I’m pretty optimistic about Summit being able to handle increases in crime. They’re responsive.”

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 237 or rwilliams@summitdaily.com.

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