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Crime “on the rise?”

El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPSO) welcomed a small group of citizens to their community meeting at Falcon Elementary School on April 13. Deputies gave a presentation on safety and crime-related issues in the Woodmen Hills/Falcon district (District 4) and offered residents an opportunity to meet the resident deputy and ask questions. The meeting was originally scheduled for April 5 but was canceled due to bad weather, which may have contributed to the low turnout on April 13.The presentation emphasized the rapid growth in the county and the resulting challenges faced by the department. Population in the District 4 area has increased from approximately 800 in 1990 to over 3,500 in 2000. Case reports taken in District 4 have increased from 476 in 2003 to 557 in 2004.Although Falcon residents may fear an increase in crime, the great majority of crimes that occur in the Falcon area are property crimes. Theft and vandalism far outnumbered other crime incidents in 2004.Most residential break-ins occur between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., when residents are away. Basement windows are a popular point of entry, so it’s important to be sure they are properly secured. Most vehicle break-ins occur to unlocked vehicles, and purses and checkbooks are the most common articles stolen. Deputies emphasized the importance of locking your car and not leaving anything in your car that would be tempting to thieves.Deputy Commander Brad Shannon, who handles investigation of felony crimes for the department, emphasized the low rate of violent crimes (murder, rape, assault). “Only about 7 percent of all case reports to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office are violent incidents,” he said. In the Falcon area, 4 percent of case reports are violent crimes and 39 percent are property crimes. “Property crimes are crimes of opportunity,” Shannon said. The key to prevention is to remove the opportunity.In recent years, there has been a big spike in crimes involving forgery and fraud, especially identify theft. “Identity theft is probably going to be the crime de jour for the next few years,” Shannon said. He advised residents to buy a shredder and destroy all material that contains personal information, especially bank statements and credit card information. “I shred everything now,” he said.The EPSO has approximately 67 sex offenders registered in the area. All citizens are able to obtain the list of registered sex offenders in their area by contacting the sheriff’s office, demonstrating “need to know” (residing in the area or having children or grandchildren residing in the area) and showing identification. The presentation included information about response times to calls of various levels of urgency. The average response time to high-risk calls (defined as crimes in progress with the threat of physical harm) in the Falcon area is 17.51 minutes, but two officers are required on the scene, and the clock doesn’t stop until the second deputy arrives. Average response time to emergent calls (situations with the potential for physical harm) is 7.50 minutes, to urgent calls (those calls where potential physical harm is not immediately present but that are judged higher priority than routine) is 11.51 minutes, and to routine calls is 19.18 minutes. In contrast, the Colorado Springs Police Department reported an average response time in 2003 of 11.28 minutes to emergency calls (serious crimes in progress).District 4’s resident deputy, Larry Murphy, came late to the meeting because he was handling a call. He explained that the purpose behind the resident deputy program is to establish a consistent law enforcement presence in the area. Murphy’s goal is to get to know as many people in the district as possible and respond to citizens’ issues and concerns.Chief Terry Maketa explained that he had asked for funds from the county’s 2005 budget to hire 12 new deputies. These funds were not approved by the county commissioners. He has asked again in 2006, requesting 18 new deputies. “We have 60 patrol officers who cover 2,100 square miles,” he said. As population in the area increases, the need for additional deputies becomes more urgent. At any one time in District 4, one to two deputies cover the entire area, depending on time of day and staffing available. Maketa has also asked for two new substations, one in the northeastern area of the county and one in the southeastern area.Maketa urged citizens to contact him personally with their concerns at 520-7204. Other El Paso County Sheriff’s Office numbers: Deputy Larry Murphy, 520-7071; non-emergency dispatch, 390-5555; traffic complaint line, 520-7192; neighborhood watch program, 520-7151.

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