Sheriff recounts 2013 crime year
Ryan Summerlin January 7, 2014
2013 was a year which saw a decrease in crime in the county, though it was not without high-profile cases such as last October’s seizure of 17 pounds of methamphetamine from individuals linked to Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel.
Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said the county has seen an overall decrease in violent crimes and crimes such as child abuse and rape, though it will take several months before 2013 crime statistics will be available.
Edmunds said his office has, however, seen a rise in the number of bookings at the county jail, which is being filled more and more with county prisoners, not allowing the county to contract cells out to the state to bolster its funding.
"The way judges are sentencing people these days, more people are sentenced to serve time in county jails," Edmunds said. "The burden for [operating] the jail will be on county taxpayers more and more."
The county also experienced a rash of vehicle burglaries during the last few months of 2013. Edmunds calls such burglaries "crimes of opportunity" and previously said that many occur near Kimball Junction and Park City and are often committed by people coming up from Salt Lake.
Property crimes were also on the rise, as gang-related graffiti in particular has been occurring more often in certain locations. Edmunds said the Sheriff’s Office has had to back off on gang-related security with last year’s budget cuts but hopes that, with money restored to the budget, his office will be able to be more proactive with gangs.
Last year also saw a large number of drug trafficking arrests made. On top of October’s methamphetamine bust, the Sheriff’s Office also made numerous other drug-related arrests, many of them individuals found to be transporting often more than 50 pounds of marijuana on Interstate 80 and other highways.
Edmunds said these arrests have stemmed from the office’s focus on intelligence-based policing over the last six to seven years, as well as its partnership with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. He said the Sheriff’s Office "deploys staff strategically" to anticipate where crime will be, and will continue with that in 2014.
"There’s not a county in Utah that partners more closely with [the DEA] than us," Edmunds said. "We derive a lot of intelligence from them. The intelligence we get from them opens up doors we haven’t had in the past to making some of those bigger busts."
When the Sheriff’s Office does make a big drug bust, Edmunds said, they get to keep 80 percent of cash and assets seized, $60,000 of which they have used to get body cameras for officers. Other funds have been used to pay for in-depth training and equipment.
Edmunds stressed that, although officers use DEA intelligence to arrest drug traffickers, the tactics used are not "profiling."
An August 2013 Reuters article, however, reported that the DEA’s Special Operations Division (SOD), which distributes drug-trafficking intelligence, gives tips to federal agents. Those agents then make the arrest based off the tip, but oftentimes state that a situation such as a traffic stop was what prompted the investigation. The practice is called "parallel construction."
Though many of those arrested for recent large marijuana trafficking busts were initially stopped for various traffic violations, Edmunds could not divulge the tactics used by his office in making such arrests.
Effects of Colorado marijuana law
Edmunds said that the recent legalization of the sale of recreational marijuana in Colorado will most likely lead to more drug trafficking on Utah roads. He said there is a high legal price for marijuana in the state right now, with some types going for as much as $400 an ounce.
"[The law] has created a large black market as well," Edmunds said. "There’s a lot of demand, and any time you have demand and supply is not sufficient to feed the demand, you’re going to see a large criminal enterprise pop up to deal with the supply."
Until Colorado can regulate the price of marijuana, Edmunds said he sees the potential for more drug trafficking coming through Utah. For those driving under the influence of marijuana, he said an individual’s blood only has to have traces of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) to be deemed "under the influence."
"In Utah, if your body has [THC] metabolites in it, you’re deemed DUI," Edmunds said. "I’ve arrested people in my experience who were under the influence of marijuana that were very impaired."
Edmunds was not willing to comment on whether an individual is more impaired while under the influence of marijuana than alcohol, but mentioned that officers arrest far more people for driving under the influence of alcohol.
With 2013’s slight increase in crime and the Sheriff’s Office’s decrease in funding, Edmunds is also looking forward to getting money restored to the budget.
"We’re grateful and I’m gratified that the [County] Council has given us extra money to bring back some patrol positions," Edmunds said. "Making sure this community is safe is a full-time job and we need adequate staffing numbers to be able to do that."