Fraud in Park City: caseload drops sharply from the depths of recession | ParkRecord.com

Fraud in Park City: caseload drops sharply from the depths of recession

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

The spike in the number of fraud complaints reported to the Park City Police Department during the recession eased slightly in 2010, the department said in its annual crime report, but the caseload remained significantly higher last year than it was in the years before the economic turmoil.

The Police Department last year fielded 67 complaints about some sort of fraud, an average of more than one every week. The total was the lowest since the 46 that were reported in 2007. The 67 complaints dropped from the 99 reported in 2009 and the 90 that were filed in 2008.

The report does not detail the nature of the fraud reports. The cases were initially filed under the fraud category, and are tallied as such in the annual crime report, but they later might have been reclassified or have been found unsubstantiated, the police caution.

Police Chief Wade Carpenter said it is typical for there to be an increase in fraud complaints during down economic times, a reason for the spike in 2009 and 2008. He said many of the cases reported as fraud in 2009 and 2008 some involving the lodging industry — turned out to be civil disputes instead of criminal actions.

The police chief said many of the fraud complaints filed in 2010 were within one of several categories, including:

  • credit cards
  • people paying deposits for bogus lodging
  • embezzlement at businesses
  • lodging firms not reporting all the revenues earned on a unit in the rental pool

    "I think that we’re not as big of a target as we originally were," Carpenter said.

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    He noted that many recent contracts between the owners of rental units and property-management firms have been drafted to prohibit the firms from shifting certain monies due to the owners elsewhere within a company. That practice is believed to have been a contributor to the increase in fraud complaints in the earlier years.

    Other highlights of the annual police report include:

  • the number of major crimes reported 853 fell to its lowest since at least 2000. The figure was below the 1,000 benchmark for the first time since 2007 and below the 900 level for the first time since 2000. Some of the offenses deemed to be major crimes include rape, robbery, burglary, assault, criminal mischief and vehicle burglary. Within the overall category of major crimes, there were two rapes reported and three robbery complaints. There were zero arsons reported.
  • the number of thefts reported dropped sharply, to 272. The year before the figure was 394. The number in 2010 was the lowest since at least 2000.
  • the number of complaints of vehicle burglaries fell to 52, a sharp drop from the 100 reported in 2009. It was the lowest number since at least 2000.
  • the number of assaults fell to 72, down from the year before. The figure was the lowest since 2004.
  • criminal-mischief reports rose sharply, to 254, the highest number since at least 2000. The police chief said he suspects an increase in graffiti cases accounted for the increase in criminal mischief. He said the Police Department is tracking graffiti cases more aggressively and Parkites are reporting them more frequently when they occur. Carpenter said the more aggressive tracking and reporting might have led to the increase rather than there being many more cases.
  • abuse or domestic cases rose to 79, the most since 2005.
  • the dollar value of property losses in 2010 fell to $543,265. The figure was the lowest since at least 2000.

    "I truly believe high-profile policing is a deterrent," Carpenter said about the overall drop in reports of major crimes, explaining that police officers are working their beats on foot and on bicycle more often than they were before.

    He said foot patrols and bicycle patrols are prevalent along the Rail Trail, the Main Street district and in neighborhoods. Those sorts of patrols give officers the opportunity to observe problems, such as streetlights that are not working, that might induce criminal activity.

    Meanwhile, the number of citations climbed sharply, with the Police Department issuing 10,103 in 2010. Carpenter said the overwhelming number of citations involved traffic offenses. The number was the most since at least 2000.