Mancos Marshal Jason Spruell gave a report to the board of trustees on Wednesday about the town’s crime statistics going into his first year of office.
Spruell was appointed marshal in May, and since then he has compiled a record of accidents, arrests and other police incidents within the town limits from 2004 to 2016. Among other things, the report showed that the number of arrests in town have fluctuated wildly over the years, while certain types of crimes have been steadily increasing or decreasing. Spruell gave the board some of his conclusions from the data, and he and the trustees discussed ways town residents can work with law enforcement to prevent crime.
The town’s law enforcement reported 56 arrests in 2015, the highest number since 2008, but only 35 in 2016. Spruell said those numbers had more to do with a style of reporting than anything else.
“Some prior marshals, if you issued somebody a summons...they counted that as an arrest,” he said. “When I was appointed marshal, I didn’t like having summonses put in as arrests.”
He also said the number of people working for the marshal’s office has varied quite a bit over the years. Periods when the office is understaffed naturally show fewer arrests and citations.
Traffic citations have gone down over the last 12 years, which Spruell attributed partly to the town installing more stop signs recently. But he said it’s also part of his philosophy as marshal, since he doesn’t believe in giving people tickets for minor, one-time offenses.
“If you can give somebody a warning and it changes their behavior, then we’re good to go,” he said. “Not everybody deserves a ticket.”
Property crimes, which got their own section of the report, can be anything that damages a resident’s property, such as graffiti or other types of vandalism. These crimes have been going up steadily for the last five years, with 300 reported in 2016.
But the most commonly investigated crime in Mancos over the last 12 years has been theft, Spruell said. The most common crimes for which people are actually arrested are domestic violence and assault. DUI arrests are also common, but he said incidents involving drunk drivers have gone down in recent years. Bartenders in town have started calling the marshal’s office whenever someone leaves after drinking too much, and an officer gives them a ride home. The trustees commended Spruell for that policy.
“That’s smart on all parts,” Trustee Ed Hallam said.
Mayor Ellen “Queenie” Barz asked whether the marshal’s office has received many marijuana-related calls since legalization. Spruell said no.
“The main marijuana calls we have (are) prior grows,” he said. “And as long as people are in compliance with the laws, there’s not much we can do.”
He said the office often receives calls from people who assume their neighbors are breaking the law because they don’t realize it’s legal to grow a certain number of marijuana plants in an enclosed area.
Trustee Cindy Simpson asked how the town could educate the public to help prevent crimes like theft. Spruell said one important step is to remind people to lock the doors on their houses and cars.
“I know it’s Mancos, but it’s a new generation, it’s a new century, and we have to lock our doors,” he said. “I’ve had one individual that’s been hit three times, and asked, ‘why do they keep coming back?’ Well, because they know you’re not locking your door.”
He also said it’s important for residents to call the marshal’s office immediately after a crime so that evidence doesn’t get lost.