New sheriff’s system aimed at stopping crime in real time

The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office is taking a new approach to tracking and attacking crime.

To supplement the year-to-year statistics now issued by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the sheriff’s office is increasingly turning to new technology to identify crime trends and focus the attention of the limited number of deputies on problem areas.

The tracking system on the sheriff’s new web page — larimersheriff.org — enables officers and the public to graphically observe what kind of crimes are being committed and where they are occurring.

“We’ve been pushing to get some of that timely data,” said Capt. John Manago, who heads the patrol division. “You’ve got to get it out to the guys.”

He said the CBI reports don’t provide a clear picture. “That was last year,” he said. “It doesn’t tell us what is happening now.”

Manago said the tracking system developed by Larimer County Sheriff’s crime analyst Lynn Hay identifies problem areas so deputies can respond before crime cells spread. Every Tuesday, he said, commanders gather to assess current situations and get the word out to the troops.

Manago said most infractions occur in the more urban areas surrounding municipalities. He said that’s why almost all of the office’s 80 deputies are assigned to what is termed the valley area.

He said the area now most active with crime is the East Mulberry corridor from Interstate 25 west to around Timberline Road. There has been a cluster of crimes Manago said are aggravated by the transience of those residing at motels in the area. He said the sheriff’s office has responded with saturation patrols by foot, bike and cruiser in addition to increased communication with innkeepers.

Other hot spots, Manago said, include mobile home parks immediately north and southwest of Fort Collins.

Sheriff Justin Smith gave little credence to the CBI statistics released annually. “A lot of it is federal bureaucracy,” he said.

Smith said they are of little value because they are a snapshot of gross statistics with no specifics rather than new dynamic approach that tracks crimes every week. Further, he said there is no consistency among the categories of crime collected by the states that are compiled into the national unified crime report.

Overall, Larimer County experienced a 6.3 percent decrease in the number of crimes taking place from 1,500 reported incidents in 2009 to 1,404 in 2010, according to the CBI report.

Notable decreases were posted in motor vehicle thefts, down 36 percent from 81 in 2009 to 52 in 2010; unlawful entry (a category not tracked by the county sheriff’s department), down 29 percent from 119 to 85; forcible rape, down 28 percent from 36 to 26; burglary, down 14 percent from 236 to 204; and larceny or theft, down 13 percent from 769 to 673.

The most significant increases were in the number of assaults (including aggravated assaults), up 18 percent from 355 to 421, and robberies, which more than doubled, from 7 to 15.

“I would bet a lot of things are tied to the economy,” Manago said of the current state of crime in the county.

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