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Published: Wednesday, 7/19/2006

ID theft and forgery rise; overall crime trend down

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Oregon police saw a significant increase in identity thefts and forgeries from people passing fictitious, computer-generated payroll checks last year, according to one statistic in the department's 2005 annual report.

However, the report that was released last week also showed a significant reduction in many measurable statistical areas, including calls for service, crime reports filed, and adult arrests.

In addition, the 32-page report details personnel changes in the department throughout the year, including Officer Tim McLeod replacing Officer Tony Castillo as Clay High School's new student resource officer so Mr. Castillo could return to road duty; crime statistics; the status of several departmental programs, such as the Drug-Abuse Resistance Education; what each student resource officer accomplished last year, and the department's overtime hours.

The department's detective bureau last year experienced the busiest year in terms of sheer numbers since at least 1997. More than 100 cases were handled each quarter last year.

In 2004, less than 80 cases were handled in the first quarter, and a little more than 80 were handled in the second and fourth quarters.

Oregon Police Chief Tom Gulch attributed the jump to an increase in check forgeries.

"That's what has caused the greatest influx," he said. "People are manufacturing their own checks and passing them to businesses. Several retail businesses accept them and find out later that they're bogus."

Conversely, Chief Gulch said he was surprised to see the drop in calls for service and crime reports filed because citizens have the ability to file crime reports over the telephone and at the station.

"The two go hand in hand," the chief said. "It just seems that things of a police concern have not been reported."

Last year, the department took 24,506 calls for service, which is a 3,576 decrease from 2004.

The number is also the lowest it's been since at least 1998.

"It didn't seem to me that we were less busy that year," the chief said. "This is a large drop."

While the number of crime reports filed in 2005 was also less than in 2004, there was only a slight difference. There were 3,314 crime reports filed in 2005 and 3,397 filed in 2004. But those numbers are down from 4,562 reports filed in 1998.

Adult arrests are also in the same boat as being the lowest in 2005 since at least 1998. There were 1,204 arrests in 2005 compared to 2,031 in 1998.

"Because the numbers were very consistent from 1998 through 2004 - and in 2005 it dropped significantly - there was not any single factor that would influence it other than we've actually experienced less crime in the city, which would be wonderful," the chief said.

He said he'll know for sure when he gets statistics from the FBI in October, which breaks the numbers down into more specific categories.

Areas where the department saw a slight increase were in accident reports filed and citations issued. But the number of juveniles that were arrested jumped from 101 in 2004 to 179 in 2005. But since 1998, that number reached its peak in 1999 at 232 arrests.

And the Crash Investigation Unit experienced its busiest year ever, in which investigators responded nine times, including four fatal crashes.

The department also reported that it received a grant at the beginning of 2005 to conduct an operating-a-vehicle-while-intoxicated checkpoint, in which two drivers were cited.

Six more were arrested for nontraffic offenses; six were cited for driving while under suspension, and 11 were cited for not wearing seat belts.

Oregon City Council President Mike Sheehy said he appreciated the user-friendly document that comes complete with color illustrations, charts, and graphs that detailed the department's yearly activities.



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