Idaho Falls Police responded to 47,641 calls for service in 2018. But Chief Bryce Johnson said it might have been more if the department was fully staffed. The Police Department was short a dozen officers in 2018 and still has about 10 vacancies.
In general, he told the Idaho Falls City Council this week, overall crime in the city was down about 5% in 2018, compared to 2017 statistics. While there was slightly more violent crime, there was a lower number of property crimes.
Johnson showed the council a “heat target” image, indicating the city’s high crime areas were centered in the downtown area and emanated out. His immediate concern are the “numbered and lettered” streets. Neighborhood officers were assigned to concentrate in specific areas this year. Johnson believes they are beginning to make progress.
In one category of drug crimes, Johnson said city officers confiscated 1926 grams of marijuana in 2018, compared to 320 grams in 2017. That is primarily due to a few very large drug busts.
But Johnson believes the city’s marijuana crime is a “home-grown” issue, not specifically due to travelers moving through Idaho to marijuana legal states like Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Some law enforcement agencies expect those states’ laws to have a high impact on Idaho.
In reviewing 2019 statistics year-to-date, Johnson said police officers are handling a growing number of “welfare” related calls. So far this year, police have handled 212 mental health calls, 548 suicide calls, and 600 general welfare checks.
He believes Idaho Falls is seeing the effect of the “me-too” movement. Police have handled 112 sexual assault reports so far this year, compared to just 50 in 2018. Johnson believes there are not necessarily more sexual assault violations, but there are more cases being reported.
Looking ahead, Johnson told the Council his biggest challenge is staffing. The department is still working to fill both patrol and detective vacancies in competition with other law enforcement agencies throughout the region. “We’re all hiring,” he said, “and chasing the same type of people.”
He said the department is making progress on the goals outlined in its five-year plan. At the top of that list are hopes for a new headquarters building.
You can view Chief Johnson’s PowerPoint presentation here.