Report shows assault, theft rates increase

By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer

Assault and theft rates were up this year in Portales, but the crime rate is still lower than most communities, according to city police.

At Thursday’s Portales City Council meeting, Police Chief Jim Gill and Capt. Lonnie Berry presented their department’s report for 2008.

According to department records, there were 200 assault cases in 2008, the most from any year since 2004.

“I believe this is symptomatic of our economy,” Berry said.

Money problems and alcohol usually cause domestic violence, he said. What people see in the media also affects the problem, Berry believes.

Berry expects the assault rates to rise again in 2009.

Theft also increases during economic drops, he said. Motor vehicle theft and larceny, which is stealing that doesn’t involve breaking into a residence, were both up compared to 2007.

Larceny cases increased by 56 from 2007 to 2008, according to police information. Motor vehicle theft cases rose by four, for a total of 26. But last year’s rate was lower than in 2006, which had 28 cases.

“And most of those (2008 stolen vehicles) have already been recovered, within a short time from after the theft,” Berry said.

However, the records showed burglary cases dropped by 27 in 2008. Berry said three of the burglaries were very violent.

The violent burglary cases have been solved, as has the one homicide in 2007.

As for drugs, the number of narcotics cases was down by 14 in 2008, according to police records. However, Berry said the amount of drugs confiscated increased last year.

“Our DWIs are down a little bit,” he continued.

Drunken driving rates dropped by 38, from 114 in 2007 to 76 last year, according to police records.

The number of arrests increased by 82 in 2008, according to the records.

“The bottom line, though, is Portales is still an extremely safe place to live,” Gill said.

The chief said Portales’ crime rate is lower than other communities and most of the violent crimes are solved.

Also, he said police have mapped out where crimes occur and no part of town is worse than any other.

In other business, the council:

• Heard an announcement that stop signs would be installed on Second Street at the Main Street intersection next week or the week after.

• Approved an intent to adopt a new animal control ordinance increasing fees, requiring livestock permits to be granted only in areas with proper zoning and clarifying other issues. The action allows time for public comment on the proposed changes before taking a final vote.

• Approved paperless agendas and information packets for the council. Information Technology Director Twila Flen said the city could save money on printing costs by putting information online and using new “Thin Client” digital viewers.

• Approved a $42,600 increase in cost of city pool upgrades. The rise caused the project price to exceed available money by $31,900. Councilors voted to pay the difference from the contingency fund. Capital Projects Manager Georgia Gonzales said the increase came because material prices went up between the time the city approved the original contract and when the state granted the project’s permit.

• Approved an agreement for the city and developer Skyline-New Mexico LLC to work together to build 20 middle-income living units downtown.