According to the FBI, Pendleton police reported 15 forcible rapes in 2011, almost double the number from the year before.
And Pendleton Police Chief Stuart Roberts said nearly every case involved an adult harming a child.
In Umatilla County, he said, the total number of sexual assaults approaches 300 a year, and the vast majority involve child victims.
“That’s a catastrophic number,” Roberts said, “because not only does it mean so many children are harmed, but child victims of sexual crimes often grew to be offenders themselves.”
The number of forcible rapes was the only increase in violent crime in Pendleton, according to the FBI’s latest crime reporting data. Violent crime — murders, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults — fell in Pendleton from 53 reports in 2010 to 39 in 2011.
Pendleton’s overall rate of violent crimes per 1,000 people dropped from 3.26 to 2.32, according to the FBI’s data. Hermiston’s fell from 3.91 to 2.72. Nationwide, the number of violent crimes reported to police decreased 3.8 percent in 2011 to 1.2 million, the fifth straight year of declines, the FBI announced Monday.
Reported property crimes in Pendleton fell about 13 percent, from 677 in 2010 to 597 last year. The total number of property crimes reported to law enforcement agencies in the U.S. decreased 0.5 percent to 9 million, according to the FBI, the ninth consecutive year that figure has fallen. Property crimes resulted in estimated losses of $156.6 billion.
But the FBI’s snapshot of crime reporting, which the agency released Monday, doesn’t necessarily mean crime fell. Another report, put together by the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, reported violent crime increased 17 percent in 2011 and property crime increased 11 percent.
That report, which came out Oct. 17, said data from the annual National Crime Victimization Survey showed “between 2010 and 2011, the rate of violent victimization increased 17 percent, from 19.3 to 22.5 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older. The increase in total violence was due to a 22 percent increase in the number of aggravated and simple assaults. There was no statistically significant change in the number of rapes or sexual assaults and robberies.”
Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston said crime reporting has multiple factors, such as the number of officers in an agency, various record management systems and how departments tabulate information.
And for small populations, a single crime spree can skew numbers. Edmiston said he is already anticipating Hermiston will show a big increase in car thefts and arsons for 2012 because of one man. Cody Lee Dean, 20, of Hermiston, pleaded guilty in June to stealing at least 20 vehicles earlier this year and setting fire to several of them. Dean is serving a six year prison sentence, while his alleged accomplice, Jeffrey Allen Smith, 20, also from Hermiston, remains in the Umatilla County Jail, Pendleton, on multiple counts of vehicle theft and related charges.
Putting more police on the streets also can mean higher reports of crime. The FBI data show property crimes — burglaries, thefts and arson — jumped in Hermiston, from 679 reports in 2010 to 765 in 2011. Edmiston said the department dedicated an officer to handling property crimes, and he found break-ins that victims might not have told police about.
Edmiston also said when the new event center in Hermiston is operating, crime also could increase, much as Pendleton does because of the annual Round-Up. Big events with lots of people and alcohol is a concoction that lends itself to more crimes.
Geography also plays into the amount of crime in an area. Pendleton had 30 vehicle thefts in 2011, according to the FBI, and Hermiston had 63. But Hermiston is 30 miles closer to the Tri-Cities in Washington, where chop shops take apart vehicles to sell the parts.
The Hermiston chief also stressed residents have a role to play in crime fighting. Criminals look for opportunities; remove those and you are less likely to be a crime victim. For example, he said, a thief is more likely to take the unlocked car that has keys in the ignition than a locked car on a well-lit street. People should take precautions to not be easy targets.
Roberts said he anticipates more crime locally and statewide if lawmakers implement recommendations to allow prison inmates out sooner or not send as many criminals to prisons. Gov. John Kitzhaber has told his public safety commission to make recommendations to lawmakers for cutting the cost of corrections because the system consumes too much of the state budget.
Oregon spends $30,956 a year to keep a person in prison, according to the state corrections department. And while that may seem costly, Roberts said he had little doubt fewer bad guys behind bars will mean increases in arrests, jail time and prosecutions. Roberts argued that also would add up to tens of thousands of dollars per defendant.
Contact Phil Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0833. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
This story originally appeared in East Oregonian.