Top stories of 2016: Traffic, crime increases in Summit County (No. 7)
More than one million more people passed through the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnel on Interstate-70 this year than last year as of November, according to the most recent data from the Colorado Department of Transportation. July saw people coming through at the fastest clip, with an average daily total of 42,741.
That has been great news for local businesses and ski areas, but as Silverthorne police chief John Minor said in August, “More people, more problems.”
Around that time, local police departments were on pace to easily surpass their 2015 arrest numbers; Breckenridge’s mid-year total was a whopping 661 compared to a total of 404 the previous year.
That rapid arrest rate, which Breckenridge Police Chief Dennis McLaughlin said likely stemmed from improved ski-pass fraud enforcement and wider use of fake IDs at marijuana shops, ended up slowing: as of Dec. 20, Breckenridge police made 898 arrests.
Frisco and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office finished down from the previous year, with 123 and 583, respectively, compared to 194 and 650 in 2015. Silverthorne and Dillon both had considerably higher totals this year, at 176 and 197.
While most of Summit County’s visitors behave themselves, the higher numbers inevitably mean more work for law enforcement officers, who have had to adapt to the higher volume of calls.
“We have to be creative with our resources these days,” said McLaughlin, whose department said in August that it was streamlining its paperwork and citation procedure to help keeps cops on the street and out of the office.
“We just have to deal with it,” said Minor. “If we get short staffed, we still have to get up and go. If that means having me out there helping patrol, so be it.”
One small boost in Breckenridge’s numbers came from a two-month undercover drug operation that concluded earlier this month. That investigation, which started after an August overdose from laced drugs bought in town, revealed blatant drug sales occurring inside bars and restaurants. One establishment, The Mine in Breckenridge, was shut down after its owner allegedly sold a half-ounce of cocaine over the bar to an undercover officer.
Case filings at the District Attorney’s Office, which were up roughly 7 percent at mid-year, seem to have flattened out. As of Nov. 30 — the latest that data was yet available — the office’s year-to-date caseload was 2,056 compared with 2,321 for all of last year. Of those, 269 were felonies, roughly the same as last year’s portion of 272.
There doesn’t appear to be a spike in any particular class of crime, said District Attorney Bruce Brown in August. Felonies, juveniles, misdemeanor and traffic infractions all appeared to be rising at similar rates. But, in Brown’s opinion, the severity of felony crimes had increased.
“I can speculate that this increase has to do with the urbanization of Summit County,” said Brown. “When you add big box stores, when housing becomes more dense and businesses are thriving, our society becomes more urbanized. And that can mean more crime.”
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