With a new police station in the works and his desire for more officers on the street, Payson Police Chief Gordon Gartner reports that Payson's crime rate has dropped again -- though motor vehicle thefts and DUI citations increased sharply.
The town's crime rate dropped to 54.3 index crimes per 1,000 residents in 1998, down from 58 per 1,000 residents in 1997. This continues a local trend dating back to at least 1994.
"It's not just the Rim country," Gartner said. "I think Payson is just following the trend of lower crimes around the country."
A community's crime rate is determined by the number of index crimes that occur in a police jurisdiction during a one-year period. The Uniform Crime Reporting System defines index crimes as murder, non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, assault, burglary, larceny-theft, and arson.
Gartner speculates that crime is down nationally due to a better economy and an aging population.
"I think as the 'Baby Boomers' get older, they have less of a propensity to commit crimes," he said. "If you think about it, you were probably wilder and were doing things that you don't do today."
Other contributing factors to the declining crime rate, Gartner said, may be the Payson Police Department's new beat system, which divided the town into four sectors, with an officer assigned specifically to each division.
"We also calculated our numbers," Gartner said. "Officers' time devoted to service is right around 90 to 95 percent of their time, whether it's a call for service or an arrest." Gartner said his crew reached that percentage with the addition of a records clerk.
Instead of spending time writing up reports, officers now dictate their notes and the records clerk prepares the reports, freeing the officers for more time on the street.
Department figures show the following number of cases for 1997 and 1998 for major crimes:
- Assaults - 164 cases in 1997; 155 in 1998.
- Burglaries - 67 cases in 1997; 53 in 1998.
- Thefts - 475 cases in 1997; 455 in 1998.
- Motor vehicle thefts - 12 cases in 1997; 31 in 1998.
- Arson - four cases in 1997; six in 1998.
- Domestic violence - 298 cases in 1997; 229 in 1998.
- DUI - 157 cases in 1997; 227 in 1998.
- Overall arrests - 1,179 arrests in 1997; 1,320 in 1998.
For those who may have been keeping score, Gartner points out that the 1997 figures are slightly different in this year's report than they were reported last year. The reason, the chief said, is a new department computer system that more accurately counts police activity.
"During the computer upgrade, we discovered that there were reports and activities that were not calculated dating back to 1995," he said.
All in all, Gartner said he feels the town's law enforcement is effective, exceptional and making a difference in preserving the quality of life.
"The community is doing well," he said, "and the results of our recent customer service survey show that the residents who responded feel safe. That's what community policing is all about."