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Crime of the Week: February 17, 2011

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The Grand Junction Police Department needs your help in identifying the suspect(s) involved in vandalizing the dormitories under construction at 1280 Cannell Avenue. Sometime between 12:00am Sunday February 6th, and 9:00am Monday February 7th, unknown suspect(s) entered the building under construction and sprayed graffiti on the walls, shower enclosures and discharged multiple fire extinguishers.

If you have information that would help solve this or any other crime, please contact Crime Stoppers at 241-7867. Information leading to an arrest can earn you up to $1,000 cash reward and you will remain completely anonymous. For more information on how to report a crime see us at www.241stop.com.

Missing Children

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From time to time we receive “Missing Children” posters from other Colorado law enforement agencies.  Today we received some information from our fellow law enforcement officers at the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office in Cortez about a case their investigators are working involving 4 missing children.  Although the GJPD has no involvement with this investigation we thought we would help them by spreading the word and the photos in hopes that someone may have seen this family.  Montezuma County does not have any information that they are in the Grand Junction area, but they would be grateful for any leads or tips they can get on the whereabouts of these kids.

Here are the details Montezuma County is sharing with the public:

Details: Brooke, Kaylee, Makena, and Tanner were allegedly abducted by their mother Carina Bieber. A felony warrant for kidnapping was issued for Carina on December 30, 2010. Tanner was last seen on January 1, 2010. He may have his nickname “TJ” shaved into his hair or he may have a mohawk. Brooke’s nickname is Brookie. Kaylee has a scar under her eye. Her nickname is Kay Kay. Makena’s nickname is Kena. Carina is biracial. She is Hispanic and White. Carina has multiple scars on her face. She has a tattoo on her neck and the tattoos “Love” and “Hope” on her wrists. Carina may use the alias last name Shippy, blair, or Rael.

All images of all of the children can be viewed at missingkids.com.  If you have any information about this case contact the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office at 970-565-8454.  

 

We’re Glad You Asked!

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A motor officer watches for speeders in a school zone.

Here at the Police Department, and throughout all of the departments in the City of Grand Junction, we frequently field questions from the public regarding a whole host of issues.  To help let you know what is going on in your local government, the City of Grand Junction regularly prints articles titled “We’re Glad You Asked” in the Daily Sentinel and posts those same articles on the City’s website.

The most recent “We’re Glad You Asked” article answers questions from the public regarding traffic enforcement. Here’s how we answered those questions:

Why do City police officers spend time on traffic enforcement? Don’t they have better things to do?

 For all of the great proactive and community-oriented policing programs that we conduct, the fact remains that the fundamental duty of a police department is to enforce the law. That contrasts sharply with a fundamental trait of all of us as human beings…none of us appreciates being told what we can and can’t do and none of us wants to suffer the equivalent of a ‘scolding’ from the very government that we support with our tax dollars.

Therein lies the crux of the frustration, and perhaps the conflicted opinions, that many of us feel about the topic of Traffic Enforcement. When someone speeds by us in what we consider to be an irresponsible and dangerous manner, we wish there was a police officer nearby to enforce the law. When we have just received a traffic ticket however, it is not uncommon to think that the police were petty in their enforcement, or to wonder why they “don’t have something better to do.”

We are often asked why we do traffic enforcement, and the simple answer is that it works. Our streets are safer and lives are protected when we conduct such enforcement. Traffic Enforcement has increased in 2010, and during that same time period traffic accidents are down over 11%, with injury accidents down nearly 17%.

Despite a common misperception, traffic enforcement activities are not conducted to increase tax revenue. Obviously traffic enforcement does generate some revenue for the City, in fact nearly $750,000 each year. Although that may sound like a large number, it represents less than one percent of the City’s general fund revenues.

Speeding and illegal left turns prompted traffic enforcement last fall near the mall

We base our traffic enforcement efforts on two main factors. First, we respond to complaints from citizens regarding areas of the city that they feel are in need of additional attention. We get many complaints, for example, of speeding through school zones or ‘running’ red turn arrows at various spots in the city. When we receive such complaints, we conduct enforcement activity not only to assess for ourselves the extent of the problem, but also to have a visible presence that we know through experience has the effect of improving compliance in those areas.

Second, we regularly analyze the streets and intersections that generate the most traffic accidents, and therefore present the most danger to our citizens. We ‘dig down’ to determine what violations most frequently resulted in those accidents, and then pattern our enforcement efforts to address those violations.

None of us likes the experience of seeing red and blue lights in our rearview mirror, especially when followed by the sinking realization that a summons is about to be issued. We immediately worry about the cost of the ticket, what our family is going to think, or what the inevitable effect is going to be on our insurance rates. Unfortunately though, traffic enforcement is about the only tool available to us that has a deterrent effect on future unlawful driving behavior, and it clearly has an impact on reducing accidents and injuries in our community.

Back In The Days Of Typewriters

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Blast back to the past with us!  See what was happening with the Grand Junction Police Department way back when…….

Back in 1998 we were still using typewriters and file folders in our records section. Both of those have since been replaced with computers. Every police report and traffic ticket is now stored electronically.

What Does A Kid Want For Christmas?

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Shop With a Cop 2010

Many of us probably have an idea of what a kid would say if you asked him or her “What do you want for Christmas?”  I have an image of a long list being rattled off of every cool, new toy that flashes by in TV commercials or is nicely displayed on store shelves.  Kids are kids, after all.  But just like every other stereotype, there are always exceptions, and in the case of this year’s annual Shop With a Cop, our officers witnessed about a dozen of those exceptions.

Shop With a Cop is an annual outreach we organize that gives deserving kids from our community a chance to go shopping for a day and spend money and gift cards that have been donated for the event.  This year in particular the stores at Mesa Mall really stepped up to give the kids some nice gifts and quite a bit of spending money.  So, you might think the kids went hog-wild picking out anything they wanted for themselves.  Nope.  They went hog-wild all right, but it was shopping for my brother, or my mom, or papa, or mammy.  Our youngest shopper, a six-year-old, even came ready with a list of every

PST Sheridan O'Leary and Bernice got something for everyone on Bernice's list!

person in her family she wanted to cover, including the family dog.  Most of the kids had to be reminded that it was ok to pick out a couple of things for themselves too.

The local TV stations did a great job covering this event, as they do every year.  Both KKCO and KREX posted their coverage on their websites.  When you listen to the kids you can hear a combination of excitement and gratitude mixed with a dash of awe over what they experienced.  They truly were an amazing group, one that embodied the true spirit of Christmas, and all of us from the GJPD feel lucky we had the chance to be part of it.

Here’s the complete list of sponsors for this year’s Shop With a Cop.  Thanks for your generosity!

  • Grand Junction Peace Officers Association
  • Mesa Mall
  • Hot Topic
  • No Fear
  • JC Penney
  • Target
  • Select Comfort
  • Sports Authority
  • FYE
  • Lids
  • JB Robinson Jewelers
  • Snack Shack
  • Pretzel Maker/ TCBY
  • Kay Jewelers
  • Enstrom’s Candies
  • Regis
  • Cost Cutters
  • Cabela’s
  • McDonalds
  • Chuck E. Cheese
  • McClane Canyon Mine
  • School District 51 employees

For more pictures of Shop With a Cop 2010, visit us on Facebook.

One Tough Issue

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It’s an incredibly polarizing topic of discussion in our city:  What should be done about the homeless problem?  There are valid arguments on both sides, and as a police department, we are very familiar with those arguments as we often bear the brunt of harsh criticism from both sides of the debate. 

There are some in our community that think our department simply doesn’t do enough to help people living on the streets or down by the river.  They often tell us we should stop issuing tickets to people who can’t afford to pay them anyway.  Some critics go as far to say that all we do is harass the people who stand on the street corners holding signs or hang out in City parks.

The criticism can be just as strong from the other side; from those who think police departments shouldn’t be in the business of using tax payer money to help out “the local bums.”  From this crowd we’re frequently told that the homeless and transient population already gets away with too much, from illegal camping to ruining our parks.  The words “bleeding hearts” and “caving to political correctness” pop up frequently from this side.

So what’s a police department to do?  The answer is simple: do what’s right.  And that is what is shaping the decision to reassign 3 officers to create a team that will deal with an issue that both sides of the debate will agree is only getting worse.  This isn’t about finding middle ground, it’s about trying to tackle a problem that is a drain on our already tight resources, a problem that is of a great concern to people in our community regardless of what side they are on, and a problem that is a public safety issue for those who are homeless.

In our search for a solution we learned about the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) the Colorado Springs Police Department put together, which reduced their calls for service related to the homeless by 60% in about 18 months.  Colorado Springs Police Chief Richard Myers has a great quote: “You can’t arrest your way out of the homeless issue.”  He’s right.  That’s not to say we won’t enforce the law just because someone is homeless.  It means if there’s a better solution with a long term impact that writing a ticket wouldn’t have, let’s do it.  That way our officers won’t be back in a week, or a day, or sometimes even within the hour dealing with the exact same person for the exact same issue, which is what often happens now.  However, if someone needs to go to jail, they’re going to jail.  This isn’t about officers turning a blind eye when a homeless person breaks the law- it’s about finding real solutions to the problems.

One of the biggest reasons for the success of the HOT program in Colorado Springs is that it brought together all of the people who deal with the homeless issue in that community in one way or another; from charities and non-profits to government run service agencies to law enforcement and emergency medical services.  All of these groups had the same mission of reducing homelessness, but they often worked independently instead of as a team.  Once the police officers knew which places offered what kind of help, they could act as liaisons for the homeless in getting them the help they needed.  The more people who get the help they need the fewer people we have to deal with as police officers and voila! – the problem is reduced.

So what can these officers do that they’re not doing already?  We’re still working on that answer as we figure out exactly what our program will involve.  Certainly the Colorado Springs Police Department’s plan has some intriguing elements.  For example, their HOT officers have successfully reunited homeless people with family members that agree to help them get back on their feet.  The officers also worked with their city leaders to “develop and implement an enforceable No Camping Ordinance.”  Instead of living next to recreational trails and other places where they are not wanted, the HOT officers used their strong connections with homeless service providers to get the people into better housing or shelters.  We will take into account all of the tips we picked up from our research of the Colorado Springs model as we develop one that will work for Grand Junction.

One thing we hoped would happen, and we’re already seeing evidence of it, is that we may be able to use this team to help solve some major crimes.  We had our first example this week, when our detectives were handed information about a serious assault that recently happened.  The detectives first looked at the case on Tuesday and solicited help from the three officers who will eventually make up our homeless outreach team.  This unit doesn’t officially start until January and we don’t even have a name for them yet but they are already starting to build connections and relationships with some of our local homeless people.  The three officers were able to work their way through the camps on the river talking to anybody they came across, which resulted in the officers being able to identify several potential witnesses.  The detectives working the case talked with the witnesses and were able to identify a suspect by Wednesday afternoon.  Before the detectives could finish writing up a warrant the homeless outreach officers found the suspect and arrested him on probable cause.  This is exactly why we are forming this unit.  The nature of our jobs requires our officers to have direct contact with the homeless people in the camps along the river, and by building relationships and connections with them we can work on reducing homelessness in our community while at the same time solving some major crimes.

There’s something that’s important to note here: this is not THE solution to the homeless problem in Grand Junction, nor is it THE answer that will completely satisfy people on both sides of this fiery debate.  There’s also the fact that some people simply don’t want to be helped, and there is likely little we’ll be able to do about that.  But we do believe this is the exact kind of out-of-the-box thinking that will hopefully get us on a path toward reducing the homeless problem in Grand Junction, and that’s something both sides can agree is the right thing to do.

 

Using Force

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A couple of weeks ago KKCO reporter Tim Ciesco approached us and the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office about doing a news story on the issues surrounding officers’ “use of force.”  What he was looking for was “what officers evaluate when they consider using force” and what their options are.  I’m hoping what Tim came away with, which based on the story he aired I’m confident he did, was how quickly that evaluation process has to be done.  In a lot of incidents officers face, we’re talking seconds.

The buzz around the police department is that Tim did a good job of giving the public an idea of some of the things officers face when they respond to calls, especially when he had to try to explain a very complex issue in the amount of time he was allotted.  And given the newscast is only a half hour, we knew Tim couldn’t include every single piece of information we gave him that day.  In fact, we couldn’t even get to everything in this blog if we tried.  Think of it this way: new recruits at the Western Colorado Peace Officers Academy go through approximately 175 hours of training on various use of force issues before they can even graduate.  At the GJPD, all police officers are required to complete monthly trainings on a number of topics, and use of force issues are included in about 40 hours of that training spread out through the year.

So here are some other tidbits of information most people don’t realize when they hear about an officer having to use force when dealing with an incident:

  • A 2008 FBI report indicated 58,792 officers were assaulted while on duty.
  • The FBI also reports 48 officers across the country were feloniously killed in 2009.  The FBI broke that number into some interesting statistics.
  • 941 of the assaults wre committed by an edged weapon, such as a knife.
  • According to a study  done in the late 90s conducted by Thomas Hontz and Ray Rheingans it took an average of 2 seconds for a person to cover a distance of 30 feet, while the average speed of an officer to access, draw, acquire the target, and fire was 2.06 seconds.  That means a person can be nearly 30 feet away and still have time to get to an officer before the officer has time to determine which weapon to use and deploy it.
  • According to the FBI “there is sufficient oxygen within the brain to support full, voluntary action for 10 to 15 seconds after the heart has been destroyed.”  That means even though a person has been shot in the heart, that person may still be able to come at you for up to 15 seconds.  Grab your watch and see how long it actually takes for 15 seconds to tick by.

    Cpl. Fisher gives Tim his duty belt.

That takes me back to the earlier comment that I’m pretty sure Tim has a good understanding of how quickly an incident can play out.  We used some of the above statistics and put him, as well as three of our officers with varying years of experience, through a realistic scenario.  Tim was given everything the officers have on their duty belt and was told to respond to do a welfare check on a man who was sitting in the park.  That’s very representative of the types of calls our officers receive.  What Tim and the officers didn’t know is the man was armed with a knife.  Tim’s story has a few video clips of how he and our officers handled the situation.  Here are some photos of the result of the knife attack on Tim (don’t worry, the red stuff is just lipstick we put on the fake knife so we could see where it struck him).

Tim was “cut” on his neck and arm. His vest had a “slash” across the chest.

The “cut” on Tim’s neck.

It should also be noted, although I don’t have photos to show you, that the three officers who went through this scenario with the exact same amount of information Tim had also received “cuts” from the knife, even though they fired their guns and likely “shot” the suspect.  That means had this been real, the suspect may or may not have been killed, but the officers still would likely have received injuries of various degrees in the process.  Just some food for thought.