DUIs, assaults rise in Pitkin County | AspenTimes.com

DUIs, assaults rise in Pitkin County

Chad Abraham

Drunken-driving arrests in Pitkin County nearly doubled in 2005 compared with 2004 figures, and the Aspen Police Department last year handled 16 percent more incidents involving assaults and harassment.In 2005, 43 people were arrested for driving under the influence, compared with 25 the previous year. Deputy Brad Gibson, whose main focus while on patrol is stopping intoxicated drivers, said the increase was surprising.The sheriff’s office devotes one deputy who solely watches for drunken drivers.”That deputy doesn’t have to respond to any other kind of call,” Gibson said.Driving distances in the valley and people’s ignorance are factors in getting behind the wheel drunk. When stopped, many people tell Gibson they’re not aware of how much they can drink before they’re considered under the influence.”It’s a very small amount,” he said. “They don’t keep track of the number of drinks they’re having in a period of time, and pretty quickly they end up over the legal limit.”Ridership on public buses is up, but DUIs still rose, Gibson noted.”People are aware that RFTA’s out there, and some people are making the right choice. But obviously more people need to make that choice,” he said.The number of traffic citations the sheriff’s office issued rose 15 percent, 251 in 2005 compared with 218 in 2004. DUI infractions and traffic stops by the Aspen Police Department both fell last year, as did bear calls. In 2004, officers responded to 1,459 incidents related to animals, mostly wayward bruins. That number dropped to 971 last year.But police in 2005 responded to 250 calls related to crimes against people – assaults, sexual assaults, harassment and disorderly conduct. Officers handled 210 such calls in 2004, a 16 percent difference. Harassment jumped 26 percent in 2005, while assaults rose from a total of 54 in 2004 to 62 in 2005, a 13 percent increase. Disorderly conduct cases rose 12 percent, while the number of sexual assaults fell from 13 in 2004 to 11 in 2005.Assault and disorderly conduct calls also rose for the sheriff’s office, but the total number of disorderly conduct arrests in 2005 – 174 – was about the same as 2004, when 172 people were arrested. The number of sexual assault cases in the county remained unchanged at six.Both departments saw rises in the number of trespassing-related arrests, including a 19 percent increase for the police, while drug-offense numbers were static for each agency.Fraud cases dropped from 21 to 10 for the sheriff’s office, but rose for the police from 43 in 2004 to 52 last year, a 17 percent increase.Pitkin County and Mountain Rescue Aspen handled 35 incidents in 2005, compared with 27 the prior year.Overall, the total number of calls for service for the police department dropped 5 percent, from 19,616 to 18,666 in 2005.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com

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