“We aren’t trying to scare people,” said Mesquite Police Department (MPD) Public Information Officer Quinn Averett about a startling rise in crime numbers reported for the last six months. “The data shows the trending heartbeat of the city as it stands right now. We have it under control and we work hard to keep it under control. We are very aware of the upward trends and we’re working to stop them.”
Reported crimes throughout the city for the period January through June 2016 compared to the previous six-month period of June through December 2015 shows a marked increase in almost all categories. Overall, MPD arrests are up 41 percent from 344 to 486 in that six-month comparison. Criminal charges filed by the department increased 32 percent from 593 to 784. The total number of calls received by MPD officers increased 4.1 percent from 7,995 to 8,323.
“While these numbers may be alarming we want the public to know we are taking a proactive approach to policing and stopping crime before it gets too embedded in the community. All of these numbers are the crimes that are reported. There’s no way for us to track the numbers that aren’t reported. The best thing the public can do for us is to report crimes as soon as they happen. Please don’t wait for an hour or a day before you report crimes to us. Then it may be too late for us to do anything about it,” Averett said.
Averett told the Mesquite Local News that “Chief Tanner is really big on intelligence-led policing that puts patrol officers where statistical data says the potential for certain crimes is the highest.” Without giving undue information to perpetrators, Averett said every crime is added to a database that department officials study to show where it geographically occurred and the time and date of its occurrence.
“By using the data, we know to put police officers in a certain neighborhood on a certain night between certain hours. That allows us to take a proactive approach to policing and not a reactive approach,” Averett said. “The data gives us an accurate trending of crimes so we know where to put our limited resources to the best use.”
The comparison of six-month data shows that graffiti investigations are up 240 percent from five to 17. Juvenile problem investigations are up 88 percent from 72 last fall to 135 this spring. Most of the juvenile problems stem from school truancy and curfew violations.
Averett says that most of the drug-related offenses are attributable to three illegal drugs: heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine. Aside from the direct offenses in drug investigations (+51%) and drug arrests (+55%) categories, he says drugs are also directly related to fraud (+212%), thefts from motor vehicles (+107%), assault and battery (+36%), domestic calls (+18%), and the obvious, driving under the influence (+11%).
“Drug habits are expensive and they have to get the money from some place. That’s why we see an increase in these other crimes when we see an increase in drug-related crimes,” he said. “If we combat drugs and lower those crimes, we lower the other crimes.”
He said that loosening marijuana usage laws is related to increased drug arrests. “Everyone we arrest for methamphetamine is also arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia that includes marijuana-related items. We don’t look for marijuana or its use, it just happens to always be a partner to the other three that we do actively pursue.”
Traffic accidents are up 18 percent from 141 to 167, alcohol-related offenses increased 17 percent from 99 to 116, and noise disturbance investigations up 20 percent from 82 to 98.
“The majority of crimes are handled by the same officer from the time it’s reported until its conclusion with either a dismissal or an arrest,” Averett said. “That really stretches our officers thin because some of these cases take a really long time to work through.”
MPD’s officer ratio per population stands at 1.7 per 1,000 inhabitants. Nationwide, that rate averages 2.4 sworn officers per 1,000 inhabitants. However, in Mesquite’s situation, the ratios may be problematically skewed simply because of the city’s location and characteristics.
While Mesquite’s official population stands at just over 19,000, that doesn’t account for the visitors and travelers that boost the number much higher.
For the first six months of 2016, the city had more than 100,000 visitors each month. Only one month last fall, October, topped that high-water mark.
And, the number of vehicles crossing the Nevada Arizona border has steadily risen each month hitting an average high of 28,000 every day. That’s an increase of about 4,000 each day from last fall.
“Being a border city, we understand that some of our crime comes from not just within the state but the surrounding ones as well,” Averett said. “Understandably, that complicates things for us. We work closely with Arizona and Utah police departments to exchange data and intelligence. All of us deal with the same suspects who cross the borders all the time.”
For all the bad news, Averett reports that Mesquite has one of the lowest crime rates in Nevada at approximately 18 percent versus 37 percent for all of Clark County. The MPD crime clearance ratio for 2015 was 36.10 percent with Clark County averaging 15.91 percent and the state averaging 18.26 percent. “Our response times have increased but that’s due to the rise in reported crime and the lack of enough officers. Chief Tanner wants to reverse that while keeping our crime rate one of the lowest and our solvability rate one of the highest,” Averett said.