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.

What Does A Kid Want For Christmas: Part 2

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Last week I wrote about our annual Shop With a Cop at Mesa Mall.  We actually do another, similar event each year as well, and today we teamed up with the Grand Junction Fire Department, Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, and Hilltop’s Latimer House to take 12 very deserving kids shopping at the Rimrock Wal-Mart.  You probably won’t see quite as much coverage in the media of this one simply because many of the kids involved can’t have their faces or identities shown on TV or in the paper.  The fact that they are staying at Latimer House means they are dealing with some very difficult situations, which make it very easy to understand why they are so deserving of a day to go shopping for Christmas presents for their family members.

For people who can’t understand why a bunch of cops and fire fighters would take time out of their busy days to do this for these kids, a statement from one of the youngsters involved in today’s event may help.  A little girl told the officer she was shopping with, “Yeah, the cops come to my house a lot.  They arrested my mommy.”  For far too many kids in our community, the only image they have of a police officer is what they saw when the cops came to take mommy or daddy to jail.  Those images don’t go away easily, and can have long-term impacts on future interactions that child has with law enforcement.  A few hours out of one day each year showing these kids that the cops are not the bad guys and that they are someone the kid can trust and rely on for help can go a long way in creating positive relationships that last a lifetime.  That is truly priceless.

A big thanks goes out to the folks at the Rimrock Wal-Mart for helping to make today’s shopping possible.

Additional photos are posted on Facebook.

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.

Bowl With a Cop

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Round up the kiddos!  We are hosting our annual Bowl With a Cop, and this year you have two dates to choose from: December 24 and 27 from 9am-noon on both days.  The event is free for kids of all ages and no registration is needed- just bring the kids for a few hours of fun.

Bowl With a Cop gives local kids a chance to meet and hang out with some of the police officers that protect our fine city.  Being a cop isn’t just about arresting people and giving tickets.  We’re a part of our community too, and the relationships we build with our fellow residents, especially our youth, prove crucial in serving and protecting our city.

Thanks to the folks at Orchard Mesa Lanes for donating the use of their bowling alley for this event!

For more information about Bowl With a Cop and other events involving the Grand Junction Police Department visit our news releases page.

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.


Don’t Fall for the Iraq War Money Scam

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Scammers Claim to be Iraq War Veterans Wanting to Share Millions

The Grand Junction Police Department recently received a report from a resident who received an email from a person claiming to be a member of the military.  In the email the scammer says he is in Iraq and is trying to get a large sum of money found near Saddam Hussein’s palace out of the country and needs the help of the email recipient.  The scammer goes on to say he will share the money if he receives the help.  The email asks the recipient to contact him.

 This scam is very similar to others that are out there promising you large sums of money.  Generally the victim either cashes checks that eventually bounce or sends money to pay for various things while they wait for the large sum of money to come back to them.  If you receive one of these emails delete it immediately and do not respond or send any money.